Iranian news agency launches Hebrew site to mark anniversary of Soleimani killing

Tasnim says its new website is necessary due to ‘strategic importance’ of the Palestinian issue for Muslims around the world; also opens Hebrew Twitter, Instagram accounts

A screen grab of the image used by Iran's Tasnim News to launch its Hebrew-language site on January 2, 2022 (Screen capture)
A screen grab of the image used by Iran's Tasnim News to launch its Hebrew-language site on January 2, 2022 (Screen capture)

Iran’s Tasnim News Agency announced on Monday the launch of a Hebrew-language website to mark the second anniversary of the killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani by the United States in a drone strike.

The CEO of Tasnim, a semi-official news agency, said in a statement that the Hebrew site was needed to highlight the Palestinian issue for speakers of the language.

“Although the number of people speaking Hebrew in the world is not so large, the Tasnim News Agency decided to set up a website in Hebrew language considering the strategic importance that the issue of Palestine has for the Islamic Republic of Iran and for Muslims across the world, and to release reports relating to the issue in that site,” said Majid Qolizadeh in a statement, reported by the site.

Qolizadeh said he hoped the site would allow people in Israel to “get informed about the shaky and dark future of usurpation and occupation of the land of a nation and about the crimes against them, and receive more accurate and genuine arguments and capabilities of the Zionist regime’s enemies.”

In the announcement, the news agency said the launch was in honor of Soleimani, “who devoted his life to the efforts for the stability and calm of the nations and to the fight against cruelty and crimes in the West Asia region.”

Soleimani was commander of the Quds Force, the foreign operation arm of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards. The Quds force is designated by a number of countries as a terrorist organization, including the US and Israel.

People carry portraits of late Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani at Baghdad Airport, in Baghdad on January 2, 2021, at the site of their killing (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)

The site also launched Hebrew-language Twitter and Instagram accounts.

It already offers a news service in Persian, English, Arabic and Turkish.

The launch of the news service came hours after two Israeli media outlets were briefly hacked with warnings from an Iranian propaganda video linked to the anniversary of the death of Soleimani.

The website of The Jerusalem Post showed a scene from an Iranian missile drill last month in which Tehran destroyed a mock-up of Israel’s nuclear reactor in Dimona. In the picture, the rocket appears to be fired from the iconic ring Soleimani wore, with the caption: “We are close to you where you do not think about it,” in English and Hebrew.

The Twitter account of the Maariv newspaper, which has the same owners as the English-language Post, briefly held the same message, but soon took it down. Maariv said its website was also hacked.

Then-US president Donald Trump sent shockwaves through the region on January 3, 2020, with the targeted killing of Soleimani.

Soleimani died in a US drone strike in Baghdad ordered by Trump, along with his Iraqi lieutenant Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iran-backed militias in Iraq known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, angering Iran and its allies.

Trump said at the time that the drone strike came in response to a wave of attacks on US interests in Iraq, warning he would hold Iran responsible if such assaults continued.

Five days after Soleimani’s killing, Iran retaliated by firing missiles at a US air base in Ain al-Assad housing American troops in Iraq, and another near Erbil in the north. No US troops were killed in those strikes but Washington said dozens suffered traumatic brain injuries from the explosions.

Iran is holding week-long activities to mark the anniversary of Soleimani’s killing. Authorities have said the main event of the commemoration would be held on Monday, without elaborating. They added that a display of “Iran’s missile capabilities” would be held on January 7.

Iranian officials have pledged repeatedly that Soleimani would be avenged.

A man lifts an anti-US and anti-Israel placard as members and supporters of Iraq’s al-Hashed al-Shaabi ex-paramilitary alliance take part in a demonstration and a symbolic funeral for Qasem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad, on January 1, 2022. (Sabah Arar/AFP)

Last month Iran fired multiple ballistic missiles at the close of five days of military drills that generals said were a warning to Israel. Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces finished the drill by blowing up a target set up to resemble Israel’s Dimona nuclear complex. Iranian TV broadcast images of missiles striking the target structures and issued a threat to Israel.

The threats come amid troubled talks in Vienna to revive Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Iran has accelerated its nuclear advances as negotiations to return to the accord struggle to make headway.

Trump pulled the United States out of the nuclear deal and reimposed crushing sanctions on Iran in 2018. Tehran has since started openly enriching uranium up to 60 percent purity — a short technical step from the 90% needed to make an atomic bomb.

Israel has long seen Iran’s nuclear program as a threat and seeks a harder line by the US and international community. Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.

Israel is not a party to the Vienna talks but has threatened force if diplomacy fails, and the US has also said it is preparing “alternatives.” Earlier this month, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he notified US officials that he had instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for a strike against Iran.

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