Iran’s president on Friday delivered an unprecedented speech to an annual pro-Palestinian rally in the Gaza Strip — a display of Iran’s importance to the Hamas militant group that rules the territory.
In a virtual address to hundreds of supporters of Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad group gathered at a soccer field, Ebrahim Raisi urged Palestinians to press on with their struggle against Israel.
“The initiative to self-determination is today in the hands of the Palestinian fighters,” Raisi said, dismissing Hamas’ domestic political rival, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, which has long sought to win Palestinian statehood through negotiations with Israel. The Palestinian Authority administers autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Raisi’s speech was seen as part of efforts to mend a rift between Hamas and its long-time patron, Iran, over the devastating civil war in Syria.
Raisi addressed the crowd on the occasion of “Jerusalem Day,” or al-Quds Day after the city’s Arabic name, which falls on the final Friday of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Jerusalem is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site of Islam. The mosque sits atop a walled esplanade, a compound that was the site of biblical Jewish temples and is revered as the most sacred site in Judaism.