Hamas chief meets slain Iranian general’s successor in Tehran

Hamas chief meets slain Iranian general’s successor in Tehran

Photo shows Haniyeh and new Quds Force commander Esmail Ghaani standing alongside each other; Hamas head also visits Qassem Soleimani’s family

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meeting in Tehran with Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh. (AP)
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meeting in Tehran with Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh. (AP)

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh and other senior officials in the terror group met in Tehran on Monday with Esmail Ghaani, the newly appointed commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force.

The force was headed by powerful Iranian General Qassem Soleimani until Friday, when he was killed in an American strike in Baghdad.

A photograph published Monday by the pro-Hezbollah, Lebanese al-Mayadeen TV station showed Haniyeh, Ghaani, Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri and other members of the terror group’s politburo, standing together.

The Quds Force is the body in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard responsible for Tehran’s military campaigns and expeditions abroad.

The al-Mayadeen report did not provide details about the meeting between Haniyeh and Ghaani.

Haniyeh spoke at a funeral for Soleimani in Tehran on Monday, heaping praise on the general and branding him “the martyr of Jerusalem.”

What Soleimani “provided to Palestine and the resistance has brought them to the position they are in today in terms of power and steadfastness,” he said, speaking before a massive crowd including Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani.

“I affirm that the resistance project in Palestine to confront the Zionist project and fight the American domination project will not be broken, be weakened or hesitate,” he added. “It will continue along its firm path, the path of resistance, until it drives out the occupiers from our land and Jerusalem.”

Iran is widely believed to significantly support Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, with weapons and training.

Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, when it ousted the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority from the territory.

The death of Soleimani marks a major escalation in a standoff between Washington and Tehran, which has careened from one crisis to another since US President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran

Khamenei has vowed “harsh retaliation” for Soleimani’s killing and dubbed the deceased commander the “international face of resistance.” The top Iranian leader, who openly wept at Soleimani’s funeral on Monday, has declared several days of public mourning.

Haniyeh also visited the Soleimanis’ home on Monday and expressed his condolences to his family, Hamas’s website reported.

A picture posted on social media platforms of the Hamas chief visiting Soleimani’s family showed that Islamic Jihad secretary-general Ziad al-Nakhalah attended as well.

Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the al-Quds Brigades, is also broadly thought to receive substantial backing from Iran.

Haniyeh called Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday and expressed his condolences to him on the death of Soleimani, a separate report on the terror group’s website said.

Zarif thanked the Hamas chairman for the call and said that Iran would continue to back “the Palestinian people’s rights and resistance in defense of its land and holy sites,” that report said.

Hamas leaders have frequently extolled Iran for its position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Iran is the only country that says that entity is carcinogenic and should be uprooted from the region,” Arouri told the pro-Hamas Al-Quds TV in February 2018. “It is the only country that is prepared to provide real and public support to the Palestinian resistance and others to confront the entity.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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