Iran’s president meets Palestinian Hamas, Islamic Jihad leaders in Syria

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi met on Thursday with senior Palestinian representatives from militant groups in the Syrian capital Damascus.

The official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) said Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian also attended the talks with “commanders of the Palestinian resistance groups.”

It was not immediately clear which groups took part in the meeting. But according to Khaled Abdul-Majid, an official from the Syria-based Palestinian Popular Struggle Front who attended the talks, Raisi assured the Palestinian representatives including senior leaders of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad of Iran’s ongoing support for the Palestinians.

“The Palestinian leaders thanked Iran for its support to the resistance and the Palestinian cause,” Abdul-Majid told The Associated Press.

According to the official, the Palestinian delegation also briefed Raisi on the latest developments in the Palestinian territories.

Raisi arrived in Syria Wednesday for a two-day visit, the first trip by an Iranian president to Damascus since 2010. Iran has been a main backer of President Bashar al-Assad throughout the civil war. During Raisi’s visit, the two countries inked several long-term cooperation agreements on oil and other sectors to bolster economic ties between the two allies.

The meeting comes days after Palestinian militants fired dozens of rockets from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel in response to the death of Islamic Jihad prisoner Khader Adnan after an 87-day hunger strike.

Since first establishing ties with Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in the 1980s, Iran has openly backed the Palestinian factions, providing them with funding and weapons. Iranian weapons are smuggled to the Gaza Strip from Sudan and Yemen via sea and border tunnels. According to a May 2021 report by the United States Institute of Peace, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps manufactured rockets for Palestinian factions at warehouses it operated in Sudan.

Iranian support for Palestinian factions has faced setbacks in the past due to political events in the region. Iran suspended its funding to Hamas at the onset of the Syrian civil war in 2012 over the latter’s refusal to side with Assad. However, relations between the two parties grew warmer in recent years and Tehran eventually resumed its financial support. The US State Department estimated in a 2020 report that Iran provides up to $100 million a year to Palestinian groups.

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