Iran ups rhetoric with talk of training Palestinian fighters
In an interview with Globo TV during his Jan. 1 visit to Brazil, Netanyahu said, “Half of them [Palestinians] are already under the gun of Iran and of radical Islam.” His comments coincided with statements made the same day by Iran’s police chief, Hossein Ashtari, that his forces are ready to train members of the Palestinian factions’ armed wings.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been unofficially providing this training since 2005, but this was the first time the police force made such an offer publicly. Ashtari made the statement during a meeting with Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Secretary-General Ziyad al-Nakhalah in Tehran. Nakhalah was accompanied on his trip by all the members of the PIJ political bureau. The delegation met senior leaders of the Iranian regime, most notably Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“[Khamenei] always supports the resistance against the Zionist entity,” Ashtari said during his meeting with Nakhalah. “We follow his footsteps and continue to support the oppressed Palestinian people. … We are ready to provide any possible assistance.”
The relationship of the Hamas and PIJ factions with Tehran had been strained when the two movements stood idly by during the conflicts in Syria and Yemen. Hamas withdrew from Syria in 2012, and announced its support for the Saudi-backed government in Yemen in 2015. Iran, a bitter rival of Saudi Arabia, restricted its financial and military support, including IRGC training, to the factions.
Following the election of a new Hamas leadership in May 2017, and new PIJ leadership in September 2017, the relationship with Iran started improving. The factions intensified their visits to Tehran and repeatedly expressed appreciation for any support Iran offered.
Hussein Sheikh al-Islam, adviser to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, affirmed Iran will not hesitate to provide any financial or military support requested by the Palestinian factions. He told Al-Monitor that Ashtari’s offer proves Iran is putting all of its capabilities at the factions’ disposal to help them upgrade their military competence.
Read More: Al Monitor
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