‘Protector of the resistance’: Iran’s allies, proxy terror groups mourn Raisi’s death

Hamas, Hezbollah praise hardline president for his support; Putin hails ‘true friend’; Syria’s Assad affirms solidarity with Tehran; EU, China also among those sending condolences

In this photo released by the Iranian Presidency Office, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, right, shakes hands with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh at his office in Tehran, Iran, March 27, 2024. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)
File: In this photo released by the Iranian Presidency Office, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, right, shakes hands with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh at his office in Tehran, Iran, March 27, 2024. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Iran’s allies and proxies around the globe sent condolences on Monday after President Ebrahim Raisi was killed in a helicopter crash along with Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

The charred wreckage of the helicopter, which crashed on Sunday in a mountainous northwestern region near the Azerbaijan border while carrying Raisi, Amir-Abdollahian and seven others, was found early Monday after a 15-hour search in foggy weather conditions.

Tehran-backed Palestinian terror group Hamas mourned Raisi in a statement as an “honorable supporter.”

Hamas said it appreciated Raisi’s “support for the Palestinian resistance and tireless efforts in solidarity” with Palestinians since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, which started with the October 7 massacre when Hamas-led terrorists rampaged through southern Israel, murdering some 1,200 people and taking 252 hostages to Gaza.

Iran’s proxy Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon, which has launched attacks against Israel since October 8 in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, praised him as a “protector” of anti-Israel groups in the region.

“Hezbollah in Lebanon extends its deepest condolences,” the group said in a statement, adding that he was “a strong supporter and a staunch defender of our causes… and a protector of the resistance movements.”

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

The terror group said it appreciated Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian for their “intense political and diplomatic efforts to stop the Zionist aggression against our Palestinian people.”

Syrian President Bashar Assad expressed solidarity with close ally Tehran, which has backed him during years of civil war.

Assad “affirmed Syria’s solidarity with the Islamic Republic of Iran and with the families of the late deceased and his comrades,” the Syrian presidency said in a statement, adding: “We worked with the late president to ensure that strategic relations between Syria and Iran flourish always.”

The oil-rich United Arab Emirates, which has mended ties with Tehran after a years-long rift, “stands in solidarity with Iran at this difficult time,” said Emirati President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

“I extend my deepest condolences to the Iranian government and people over the passing of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and those accompanying them following a tragic accident,” Sheikh Mohammed posted on social media platform X.

In another statement on X, Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, called the news “painful,” expressing his “sincere condolences to the government and people of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan also mourned the loss in a press conference in Islamabad.

“From the first moment we heard of the accident, we have been in contact with the Iranian authorities and mobilized all means to assist [rescue] efforts. Relevant institutions including our Defense Ministry and AFAD disaster authority did their best but unfortunately we weren’t able to hear good news,” Fidan told a joint news conference on Monday with his Pakistani counterpart Ishaq Dar.

File: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani in Tehran, Iran, November 29, 2022. (Iranian president’s office)

Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani expressed “profound sadness and deep sorrow” at the news of Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian’s deaths.

“We extend our heartfelt condolences and sympathies to the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, Ali Khamenei, and to the nation of Iran, its government and people. We express our solidarity with the brotherly Iranian people and the officials of the Islamic Republic during this painful tragedy,” a statement read.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif declared a day of mourning after reports of Raisi’s death came in.

“Pakistan will observe a day of mourning and the flag will fly at half mast as a mark of respect for President Raisi and his companions and in solidarity with Brotherly Iran,” Shehbaz posted on X, formerly Twitter.

“I, along with the government and people of Pakistan, extend our deepest condolences and sympathies to the Iranian nation on this terrible loss,” he added. “The great Iranian nation will overcome this tragedy with customary courage.”

The Pakistani leader hosted Raisi in Islamabad for a three-day visit in April in a bid to mend ties between the neighbors after they traded deadly strikes earlier this year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a statement hailing Raisi as an “outstanding politician whose entire life was dedicated to serving his homeland.”

“As a true friend of Russia, he made an invaluable personal contribution to the development of good-neighborly relations between our countries,” he said.

File: Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) shakes hands with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during their meeting in the Kremlin on December 7, 2023, in Moscow. (Sergei Bobylyov/Pool/AFP)

China’s President Xi Jinping said “the tragic death is a great loss to the Iranian people, and the Chinese people have lost a good friend,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin conveyed at a regular press conference.

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said he was “deeply saddened” by the deaths, noting their shared commitment to bolstering ties.

The European Union expressed its “sincere condolences” over the death of Raisi and other officials in a helicopter crash.

“Our thoughts go to the families,” EU Council President Charles Michel said in a statement.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, who recently invited Iran to join the BRICS group, expressed deep regret over the fatal crash.

“This is an extraordinary, unthinkable tragedy that has claimed a remarkable leader of a nation with whom South Africa enjoys strong bilateral relations,” Ramaphosa said.

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