The Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Friday hailed the “victory” of Palestinian militants in this summer’s Gaza war againt Israel and vowed “defensive” support for the Palestinians.
Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the top commander of the Guard, congratulated the people of Gaza on their “victory” in the 51-day conflict between Israel and the Hamas and other terror groups, and said the Palestinians should add to the “volume, range and accuracy of their missiles,” in a statement posted on the Guard’s official website.
He added that the West Bank should also have its own “defense” systems.
Earlier this week, Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, head of the Guard’s paramilitary wing, said “arming the West Bank has already begun and weapons will be provided to the people of the area.” Neither general elaborated on what kind of aid might be provided to the West Bank, which is controlled by Israel but governed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Iran has long backed terror groups in the region, including the Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Islamic Jihad held a victory march in Gaza Friday celebrating the end of the fighting with Israel. Abu Hamza, spokesperson for the group’s armed wing, thanked Islamic Jihad’s supporters, foremost Iran, Sudan and Hezbollah, Ynet reported.
The group said Friday that 121 fighters from its military wing, the al-Quds Brigades, were killed during Operation Protective Edge in fighting with IDF soldiers in Gaza.
In a statement to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency, the organization further claimed that it had fired over 3,250 Fajar and Buraq rockets and mortar shells throughout the 50-day operation. (Israel says a total of over 4,500 rockets were fired at it during the conflict.)
Islamic Jihad claimed to have fired at Netanya, Tel Aviv, Dimona, and Jerusalem. It also said it fired at IDF positions and vehicles.
Israel claims to have killed hundreds of Palestinian fighters from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other groups. According to Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry numbers, 2,143 Palestinians — over 70% of them civilians — were killed, including nearly 500 children. Israeli officials dispute these claims and assert that about 1,000 of the dead were active members of Hamas or other terror operatives. Hamas’s rocket arsenal was severely depleted during the operation and many — if not all — of its attack tunnels against Israel have been destroyed.
Seventy-one were killed on the Israeli side, among them six civilians.
The outcome of the fighting remains unpredictable as an open-ended ceasefire signed Tuesday has held up. For the moment, Israel has promised to open border crossings with Gaza to a degree, something it does intermittently anyway, and to increase access for Gaza fishermen. Hamas’s other demands are to be later discussed: an airport and seaport, prisoner releases, salaries for its thousands of civil servants and the opening of the Rafah crossing to Egypt.
Israel is asking for the demilitarization of Gaza and the return of the remains of two soldiers taken by terrorists during the ground incursion.
On Wednesday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conceded that he could not yet guarantee Israel’s military operation would ensure long-term quiet, but said that if Hamas resumes its fire, the IDF will strike back “sevenfold.”
Adiv Sterman and Lazar Berman contributed to this report.