Iran’s Raisi meets with top Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials, urges Israel’s defeat

Visiting Syria, Iranian president holds talks with senior members of Palestinian terror groups, predicts ‘collapse of Zionist regime very close’

In this handout photo, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi meets with senior Palestinian officials, including leaders of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups, in the Syrian capital Damascus on May 4, 2023. (Iranian Presidency Office)
In this handout photo, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi meets with senior Palestinian officials, including leaders of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups, in the Syrian capital Damascus on May 4, 2023. (Iranian Presidency Office)

Iran’s president met senior Palestinian officials in Damascus and expressed his country’s support Thursday as Tehran and Syria signed a series of agreements.

Damascus-based Palestinian official Khaled Abdul-Majid told The Associated Press that the delegation — which included top leaders from the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups — briefed Iran’s Ebrahim Raisi on the situation in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.

Iran has been a main backer of some Palestinian factions, supplying them with weapons and money.

“The Palestinian leaders thanked Iran for its support to the resistance and the Palestinian cause,” Abdul-Majid, who attended the talks, said after the meeting. Abdul-Majid, who is a leader of the Syrian government-allied Palestinian Resistance Factions Coalition, added that Raisi confirmed to the Palestinian officials that Iran will continue supporting the Palestinians.

Among the Palestinians in attendance was Islamic Jihad leader Ziad Nakhaleh, who is based in Syria, and Khalil al-Hayya, a senior member in the Gaza-ruling Hamas.

According to a statement from Raisi’s office, the Iranian president urged Muslims to “use all their capacities to achieve the violated rights of Palestine and the freedom of the holy Quds [Jerusalem].”

“Today more than ever, the unity and cohesion of the resistance forces, the region and the Islamic world is necessary to accelerate the defeat of the Zionist regime and the liberation of the holy Quds and the sovereignty of the Palestinians over their destiny,” Raisi was quoted as saying.

He added: “We consider the collapse of the Zionist regime, whose effects are visible, to be very close.”

Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, shakes hands with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Damascus, Syria, May 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Omar Sanadiki)

Turning to the Abraham Accords normalization agreements that Israel signed in 2020 with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco, Raisi said that the Trump administration, which brokered the agreements “forced some governments to restore relations with the Zionists, but what actually happened was [Israel] reneging on its promises and continuing to violate Palestinians’ rights and to commit murder and plunder.”

However, those who signed those deals with Israel have now seen the error of their ways, Raisi claimed. “It reached a point where the supporters of the normalization of relations are facing protests and questions by their own people and realized that there is no other path but to resist and stand against the Zionist regime.”

Raisi began a two-day visit to Syria during which the two allies signed a series of long-term cooperation agreements on oil and other sectors to bolster economic ties. Raisi held talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad and visited holy shrines for Shiite Muslims near the capital Damascus.

Tehran has been a main backer of Assad’s government since a 2011 uprising turned into full-blown civil war and has played an instrumental role in turning the tide of the conflict in his favor.

Iran has sent scores of military advisers and thousands of Iran-backed fighters from around the Middle East to Syria to fight on Assad’s side. Tehran has also been an economic lifeline for Assad, sending fuel and credit lines worth billions of dollars.

Syrian government forces have regained control of large parts of the country in recent years, with the help of its two main allies — Russia and Iran.

With Arab governments that once advocated Assad’s downfall now slowly making amends with Damascus, Iran appears to be hoping to reap the rewards for its decades-long support of the Syrian president with investment and economic opportunities to help alleviate its own ailing economy.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi steps off the plane as he arrives at the airport in Damascus, Syria, May 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Omar Sanadiki)

Syrian state media said Raisi and Assad signed agreements and memorandums of understanding related to several sectors, including oil, agriculture, railways and free trade zones.

Iran’s state-owned railway company has long aspired to expand its network through neighboring Iraq and Syria, linking it to the Syrian port of Latakia on the Mediterranean Sea to boost trade. Syria’s opposition and Tehran critics see this as another Iran attempt at growing its political influence.

The deals are important also for Syria, whose economy has hit an all-time low over the past decade, with spiraling inflation, a currency plunge and rampant power cuts.

The last Iranian president to visit Syria was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2010.

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