Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif encourages resistance to Israel in phone call to Palestinian Islamic Jihad officials
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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif phoned Islamic Jihad leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah to express support for the group’s “valiant resistance in confronting the Zionist aggression against the Gaza Strip,” according to Palestinian and Iranian reports.
Zarif, who has been relatively inactive lately, meeting the new Hungarian envoy in Tehran on Sunday but doing little else, called the leader of Islamic Jihad this week to offer support. On November 12 Israel killed a senior PIJ commander in Gaza, and the group fired over 400 missiles at Israel in response. According to Palestine Today TV the Iranian called the Palestinian group’s leader to praise “heroism and steadfastness of the Palestinian people against the Zionist enemy.”
Islamic Jihad is the third or fourth largest Palestinian movement but it has obtained advanced rockets and cash through Iranian support over the years. This means even though it is a small movement it has been able to threaten Israel from Gaza over the last years, with the support or knowledge of Hamas, which runs Gaza.
PIJ has rockets that can travel more than 100 km. and it showcased a new rocket with a 300 kg. warhead recently. It has received increasing support from Iran since 2012. Zarif also called Nakhalah on November 17 to express support.
Islamic Jihad has been behind rocket fire last fall and also in August and November. It has threatened to fire thousands of rockets in a day and claimed it showed restraint in the recent battle. Zarif met Nakhalah in February in Beirut. They also met in Tehran in late December 2018.
In the phone call this week the Islamic Jihad leader thanked Iran for its support and said it would continue to struggle against the “Zionist project.” Tasnim news in Iran reported the phone call as well. The two calls appear to show how deeply invested in Islamic Jihad Iran has become. However, Zarif appears to have been laying low lately. He held talks with the outgoing Omani ambassador but rarely tweets.
At home, Iran has had to deal with mass protests and Zarif has not tweeted since November 12, days before the protests broke out. Prior to that, he was in Turkey where he spoke about how Iran’s neighbors, like Turkey, come first in Iran’s foreign policy, as the Islamic Republic is seeking a closer partnership with Ankara.