Iranian media references to military aid provided by Iran to Hamas in the past

IRGC commander Hossein Salami meets with Ismail Haniyeh (palinfo.net, June 20, 2023)

IRGC commander Hossein Salami meets with Ismail Haniyeh (palinfo.net, June 20, 2023)

Khamenei meets with Ismail Haniyeh (the Iranian Supreme Leader’s website, November 5, 2023).

Khamenei meets with Ismail Haniyeh (the Iranian Supreme Leader’s website, November 5, 2023).

Hajizadeh speaking to Basij students (Fars, December 10, 2023)

Hajizadeh speaking to Basij students (Fars, December 10, 2023)

Ezzatollah Zarghami (Mehr, November 22, 2023)

Ezzatollah Zarghami (Mehr, November 22, 2023)

Qassem Soleimani against the background of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (IRNA, January 2, 2024)

Qassem Soleimani against the background of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (IRNA, January 2, 2024)

Widow of nuclear scientist Mustafa Ahmadi-Roshan (IRNA, November 29, 2023)

Widow of nuclear scientist Mustafa Ahmadi-Roshan (IRNA, November 29, 2023)

Mohammad Jafar Assadi (Tasnim, January 1, 2024)

Mohammad Jafar Assadi (Tasnim, January 1, 2024)

Hamas representative in Lebanon, Ahmed Abd al-Hadi (al-Alam, December 31, 2023)

Hamas representative in Lebanon, Ahmed Abd al-Hadi (al-Alam, December 31, 2023)

Dr. Raz Zimmt
Highlights
  • Since the outbreak of the war in the Gaza Strip, the Iranian media has published several reports regarding military aid Iran has provided Hamas in the Gaza Strip over the years. Iran does not hide its support for the Palestinians, including Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and even takes pride in it. Iran’s desire to expand its threats against Israel by creating a “ring of fire” around Israel’s borders has led Iran to strengthen its ties with the Palestinian terrorist organizations, first and foremost Hamas. With the Qods Force leading its efforts, Iran assists these organizations by supplying weapons (including rockets threatening central and southern Israel), providing tens of millions of dollars a year to finance the construction of military infrastructure and the ongoing operation of the military force, transferring technological know-how for the development and production of weapons (including rockets), and training operatives (who left the Gaza Strip) through the Qods Force.
  • Since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June 2007, Hamas has enjoyed Iranian military support, including the supply of Iranian weapons, training of its operatives in Iran, the transfer of Iranian knowledge and capabilities through various routes to the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria, and extensive economic support. However, senior Iranian officials generally refrained from commenting on specific military aid given to the Palestinian terrorist organizations. The war in the Gaza Strip provided senior Iranian and “resistance front” officials with an opportunity to reveal in media interviews and public appearances additional details about Iran’s military support for Hamas. Their statements appear to be intended to achieve two main goals:
    • To glorify the role of Iran and the IRGC in transferring advanced military capabilities to Hamas to emphasize Iran’s key role and vitality for its proxies and partners in the “resistance front” affiliated with it in the region.
    • To respond to expressions of criticism and disappointment voiced concerning Iran’s relatively lax response since the outbreak of the war.
  • Iranian media reports on Iran’s military support for Hamas mainly refer to the IRGC’s rocket and missile support, including building self-production capabilities. Prominent in this context is the involvement of former Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani and other senior officials in the IRGC missile field. According to a single statement by a Hamas representative in Lebanon, Soleimani also initiated the concept of the tunnels used by Hamas.
Iran’s Military Support for Hamas – Background
  • Since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, and especially after Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, Hamas has enjoyed significant Iranian military support. The military ties between Iran and Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) are closely maintained by a dedicated branch of the IRGC’s Qods Force dealing with Palestine.[1] Interviewed by a media outlet of an Iraqi militia supported by Iran in November 2018, Ali Baraka, a former Hamas representative in Lebanon, noted that Iran was the only country that supported the Palestinian “resistance” with money and weapons. He said Iranian support enabled the stability and strength of the “resistance” in Gaza. As an example of assistance, he noted that Hamas operatives had made use of most of their rocket arsenal during Operation Protective Edge and that after the operation, Iran was the only party that supported them with money so that they could remanufacture rockets and purchase weapons and equipment (al-Nujaba satellite TV, November 23, 2018).
  • At the end of Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021, Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, thanked Iran for its support of weapons and money (al-Sharq, May 21, 2021). Interviewed by al-Jazeera TV (March 19, 2023), Khalil al-Haya, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, said Iran stood by the Palestinian resistance with all its capabilities and that Iran’s political, financial, and military support had not stopped even after Hamas withdrew from Syria in 2013.
  • Senior Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal claimed in an interview with the al-Arabiya network (October 20, 2023) that Iran had supported Hamas with weapons, know-how, and technology but stressed that Hamas had expected a broader mobilization on the part of Iran in the current campaign. Musa Abu Marzuq, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, also admitted that Hamas had expected Iran to participate more broadly in the campaign (al-Quds al-Arabi, October 30, 2023). Moreover, according to a report published in Reuters (November 15, 2023), Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, told Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, at their meeting in early November 2023, that Iran would not intervene in the war directly because it was surprised by the timing of the October 7 attack. He also pressured Haniyeh to silence the voices in Hamas publicly calling on Iran and Hezbollah to join the campaign against Israel with full force.
  • On January 7, 2024, the IDF spokesperson reported that the Nahal Brigade’s combat team had exposed terrorist infrastructure and components for manufacturing and developing precision missiles in the neighborhoods of al-Daraj and al-Tuffah in the northern Gaza Strip. According to the report, components were found proving that Hamas operatives “learned under Iranian guidance how to operate and build precision components and strategic weapons and gained technological knowledge in the field” (IDF spokesperson’s website, January 7, 2024).
IRGC commander Hossein Salami meets with Ismail Haniyeh (palinfo.net, June 20, 2023)       Khamenei meets with Ismail Haniyeh (the Iranian Supreme Leader’s website, November 5, 2023).
Right: Khamenei meets with Ismail Haniyeh (the Iranian Supreme Leader’s website, November 5, 2023). Left: IRGC commander Hossein Salami meets with Ismail Haniyeh (palinfo.net, June 20, 2023)
Iranian Media References to Military Aid to Hamas
  • Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the IRGC’s aerospace arm, said in a speech to Basij students in early December 2023 that some were asking what the Islamic Republic had done for the residents of the Gaza Strip. He replied that Iran had done what was necessary to do. He noted that until recently, the residents of Gaza defended themselves only with stones, but today, they were defending themselves with rockets, weapons, and advanced capabilities, which enabled the transformation of a “guerrilla group” into a significant force that managed to defeat the IDF, which 50 years ago defeated three Arab armies (Fars, December 10, 2023).
Hajizadeh speaking to Basij students (Fars, December 10, 2023)
Hajizadeh speaking to Basij students (Fars, December 10, 2023)
  • Iranian Minister of Tourism and Cultural Heritage Ezzatollah Zarghami, a former senior IRGC official, was interviewed in November 2023 on the TV program “Toward the Horizon of Palestine.” The program, which began airing on Iranian state television a few days after the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, 2024, is a daily talk show featuring senior politicians, former government officials, and prominent commentators dedicated to discussing developments in the Palestinian arena and Iran’s policy regarding the war in Gaza. In the program broadcast on November 20, 2023, Zarghami said that when he worked in the missile field for the IRGC, Iran manufactured the Fajr-3 rocket. He said his first mission was to deliver the rocket “to Palestine and Lebanon.” According to him, he was not afraid to say so and even said it proudly because the Iranian Supreme Leader himself declared that Iran supported both Hamas and Hezbollah. The Iranian minister also said that in his capacity as director of the rocket production, he had visited the region and supplied them to Hezbollah and the Palestinians in Gaza. He also personally visited the tunnels in Gaza and instructed the characteristics of the rockets and how to use them. He said that he saw cages of singing canaries during his visit to the tunnels. One Hamas commander told him that the birds were meant to serve as “sensors” in case the air supply stopped. When the oxygen flow decreases, the canaries stop singing and die, indicating a problem with the oxygen supply to the tunnels (Mehr, November 22, 2023).
Ezzatollah Zarghami (Mehr, November 22, 2023)
Ezzatollah Zarghami (Mehr, November 22, 2023)
  • The hardline daily Farhikhtegan claimed that Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani had played a key role in supplying weapons to Gaza and the West Bank. According to an article marking the fourth anniversary of his assassination, Soleimani argued that without weapons, victory in the war was meaningless. However, transferring weapons to Lebanon and Palestine is not a simple matter because of the intelligence, operational control, and supervision of the airports and border crossings. In a way that is still unknown, and when no one believed it was possible, Soleimani visited several countries to examine how weapons could be transferred to the Gaza Strip. His visits took place against the backdrop of Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei’s order to arm the West Bank as well. Although the area is under the strictest supervision of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, even Israeli weapons can now be obtained there. According to the report, although theoretically, not even a single magazine could be delivered to Gaza, Soleimani managed to deliver missiles and rockets to the Gaza Strip so that those who had fought with stones in the past would be equipped with weapons. In addition, Soleimani stressed the need to manufacture weapons in areas controlled by the “resistance” organizations. He believed that the “resistance” had to reach the ability to manufacture weapons in any situation and that instead of sending weapons, the “resistance” organizations should be taught how to manufacture their own weapons, which would give them a greater degree of flexibility. A significant part of the weapons of the “resistance” in Gaza is manufactured in underground lathes, and the same is true for Yemen. As a result, and despite the rigorous siege on Yemen and Gaza, “Yemen did not surrender in the war, and Gaza did not retreat in the face of the Zionist enemy” (Farhikhtegan, January 2, 2024).
  • Another article marking the fourth anniversary of his assassination said that operationally, Soleimani played an important and prominent role in “improving the deterrent power of the Palestinian groups.” The article quoted PIJ secretary-general Ziad al-Nakhalah and senior Hamas leader Osama Hamdan as saying Soleimani had supplied weapons to the Palestinians during Operation Cast Lead in 2009 (IRNA, January 2, 2024).
Qassem Soleimani against the background of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (IRNA, January 2, 2024)
Qassem Soleimani against the background of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem
(IRNA, January 2, 2024)
  • In November 2023, the widow of nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, who was assassinated in January 2012 in Tehran, was interviewed on the TV program “Toward the Horizon of Palestine.” Fatemeh Bolouri-Kashani said that before her husband began working at the uranium enrichment site at Natanz, Ahmadi-Roshan had been employed for several months in the Qods Force’s defense department. She said that thanks to his scientific knowledge as a chemical engineer, and because the resistance organizations had to manufacture rockets from basic materials, he and his colleagues designed a rocket using sugar, oil, and other materials that they tested in their student dormitories. According to her, they later upgraded the rocket they manufactured and turned it into a missile (IRNA, November 29, 2023).
Widow of nuclear scientist Mustafa Ahmadi-Roshan (IRNA, November 29, 2023)
Widow of nuclear scientist Mustafa Ahmadi-Roshan (IRNA, November 29, 2023)
  • In early January 2024, Mohammad Jafar Assadi, former commander of the IRGC in Syria, gave an extensive interview to Tasnim News Agency. During the interview, he was asked how Soleimani managed to turn Hamas and the PIJ into a force that prevented Israel from achieving its objectives in the war even after 80 days of fighting. Specifically, Assadi was asked about Soleimani’s role in arming the Palestinians. In the interview, he reiterated his statement in a previous interview with Iranian television in October 2023, in which he denied that Iran had supplied weapons to Gaza. The senior Iranian officer said in the interview that Gaza and the West Bank were “open prisons” where people lived, and Israel maintained full control over them. Therefore, Iran was unable to supply weapons and facilities. He also claimed Soleimani had never visited the Gaza Strip (Tasnim, October 21, 2023). In the interview marking the fourth anniversary of Soleimani’s assassination, Assadi reiterated the difficulty of providing weapons and training to those “surrounded by a concrete wall,” sitting in prisons or being physically screened and searched on their way back to their homes in the Gaza Strip. However, he hinted that Soleimani had helped Palestinians in Gaza in a way that was unknown even to Israel and the United States. He said the Americans claimed that the Palestinians were receiving weapons from Iran but did not know how. Israel also did not know how the weapons were delivered to Gaza and how and where the Palestinians trained. Assadi added that the way Soleimani and the Qods Force had acted caused the Americans to claim, on the one hand, that Iran was not involved but on the other hand, admit that no country except Iran had the courage and ability to equip and provide aid to the Palestinians (Tasnim, January 1, 2024).
Mohammad Jafar Assadi (Tasnim, January 1, 2024)
Mohammad Jafar Assadi (Tasnim, January 1, 2024)
  • Interviewed by Iranian TV in Arabic, Ahmed Abd al-Hadi, Hamas’ representative in Lebanon, said that Qassem Soleimani had visited the Gaza Strip several times and that the “idea of the tunnels” was his idea and that of senior Hezbollah operative Imad Mughnieh. Interviewed on the same channel, Sheikh Hashem Safi al-Din, chairman of Hezbollah’s Executive Council, also referred to Soleimani’s support for the Palestinians, saying that the commander of the Qods Force had provided the Palestinians with weapons, capabilities, and means that were currently used in the campaign against the “Zionist enemy” (al-Alam, December 31, 2023).
Hamas representative in Lebanon, Ahmed Abd al-Hadi (al-Alam, December 31, 2023)
Hamas representative in Lebanon, Ahmed Abd al-Hadi (al-Alam, December 31, 2023)

[1] See the ITIC’s Information Bulletin from October 29, 2023, “Operation Iron Swords – The development of Iranian-Hamas-Hezbollah cooperation