Iran’s foreign minister hugged and kissed a key Hamas leader after threatening Israel with a “huge earthquake” as part of a region-wide war if it did not halt attacks on the Gaza Strip.
Video captured by the Iranian-state media outlet Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) and shared on social media shows Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian meeting with Ismail Haniyeh, a leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, in Doha, Qatar.
In the video Amirabdollahian and Haniyeh greeted each other warmly, with footage showing the pair hugging, kissing, smiling, and laughing.
Open Source Intelligence Monitor focused on Europe and Conflicts across the World posted a clip of the encounter on X, formerly Twitter.
That meeting took place exactly a week after Hamas attacked Israel and killed 1,300 people, mostly civilians including women children and the elderly in the deadliest-ever strike by Palestinian militants on the Jewish state.
Iran which helps arm and fund Hamas, has denied involvement in the attack, a sensitive matter for U.S President Joe Biden who tried to pursue some of the rapprochement with Tehran started by the Obama administration when he was Vice President.
During the meeting, the Amirabdollahian and Haniyeh reportedly agreed to “continue cooperation to fully achieve the goals of Hamas and the Palestinian people,” according to a press release by Hamas obtained by The Jerusalem Post.
Hamas is fighting to destroy Israel and replace it with an Islamist Palestinian state. Hamas, which the U.S. designates a terrorist organization, casts its actions as resistance to Israel’s occupation of what it says is Palestinian land.
Amirabdollahian referred to Hamas’s murder and kidnapping of civilians and soldiers in southern Israel as “glorious,” The Jerusalem Post reported.
After the October 7 Hamas attack, Israel launched its heaviest-ever airstrikes on Gaza, home to roughly 2.3 million people. As of Saturday, at least 1,300 people had been killed in Israel, the Associated Press reported, citing the Israeli military. More than 1,500 people have been killed and more than 6,600 have been injured in Gaza, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, the AP said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his country is “at war” and has cut off supplies of food, fuel, electricity and medicine in the Gaza Strip. Israel has called up 360,000 army reservists as it prepares for a likely ground offensive into the territory. Israel has told Palestinians to evacuate Gaza, but it remains unclear where civilians can flee for safety.
Newsweek reached out via email on Saturday to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for comment.
Iran has expressed support for Hamas, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei saying earlier on Saturday that “everybody in the Islamic world is duty bound to help the Palestinian people,” according to Iran’s Tasnim News Agency.
Ahmed Abdulhadi, Hamas’s representative in Lebanon, told Newsweek previously that Hamas coordinated with Iran before launching the attack last weekend. Tehran has denied any role in the operation, though the Iranian Mission to the United Nations told Newsweek on Wednesday that the Islamic Republic provided Palestinian fighters with “skills” to help them launch such an assault. The Palestinian movement has denied that any other entity played a role in planning the surprise land, sea and air attack.
U.S. and Israeli officials, while accusing Iran of having a long history of supporting Hamas militarily, financially and otherwise, have not identified any clear connection between Tehran and the Hamas attacks. Any direct Iranian involvement would create multiple headaches for President Biden, potentially widening the war in the Middle East and putting the spotlight on his diplomacy with Iran. As the Democratic president campaigns for re-election in 2024, Biden is facing mounting scrutiny over several issues involving Iran, including trying to revive a nuclear non-proliferation deal scuppered by his predecessor and rival, former President Donald Trump, and a controversial decision to unfreeze Iranian funds in a sanctions-bound bank account as part of a deal to free American prisoners.
Prior to meeting with Haniyeh on Saturday, Amirabdollahian told reporters in Beirut, Lebanon, on Saturday afternoon that the militant group Hezbollah is considering getting involved in the conflict and called on Israel to stop its attacks on Gaza.
Hezbollah, an Iran-backed group that the U.S. also designates as a terrorist organization, has voiced strong support for Hamas and has repeatedly exchanged fire with Israel since the start of the war.
Amirabdollahian said he met with Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Friday, where the two discussed the group’s conditions.
“I know about the scenarios that Hezbollah has put in place,” Amirabdollahian said. “Any step the resistance (Hezbollah) will take will cause a huge earthquake in the Zionist entity.”