Iran vows to support Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad during Tehran talks on Gaza war

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Iran pledged to support Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad during a meeting in Tehran to discuss Israel’s devastating war in Gaza, which is fuelling regional tensions.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and PIJ chief Ziad Al Nakhala this week held talks with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and other senior officials, state media reported.

The meetings in Tehran occurred as truce negotiations continue and as Israel increased its attacks on Iran-linked militants in Lebanon and Syria. Israel also plans to launch a military incursion into Gaza’s southern city of Rafah.

Iranian officials said during the talks that Tehran “will not hesitate to support” the two militant groups, state media reported.

Hamas and the PIJ form part of the so-called Axis of Resistance, an alliance of Iran-backed groups that includes Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The Gaza war began when Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking dozens hostage. The Israeli military has killed more than 32,400 people in its bombardment of the Palestinian enclave.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that the military remains committed to an incursion into Rafah, despite clear objections from allies including US President Joe Biden. The city has been a last refuge for 1.5 million Palestinians displaced by the war.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, right, meets Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Tehran. EPA

The war has caused clashes in other parts of the region, with Hezbollah in Lebanon exchanging cross-border fire with Israel, Iraqi militias claiming attacks against Israeli targets, and the Houthis attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea. Israel has launched strikes in Lebanon and Syria.

Despite the escalating tensions, Iranian commanders told their militia allies that expanding the conflict or directly engaging in conflict with Israel or the US was not in its strategic interests.

Israel “is not capable of confronting the resistance forces and defeating them”, Mr Khamenei told the PIJ leader on Thursday.

Updated: March 29, 2024, 11:10 AM

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