Iranian Leaders on Israel-Gaza Conflict

In April and May 2021, Iran’s senior leaders unanimously condemned Israel amid clashes in East Jerusalem and Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. Tehran expressed staunch support for Palestinians and militant groups in Gaza. 

Iran has long supported Hamas and PIJ for geostrategic and ideological reasons. On May 7, a PIJ official claimed that his group had purchased their rockets “with Iranian money” and had been trained to fire them by Iranian military advisors. “I am proud to say that the rockets that are used to pound Tel Aviv have an Iranian signature on them,” Ramez al Halabi told an Iraqi TV channel. Hamas political leaders also acknowledged receiving support from Iran. "I give thanks to those who provided funds and weaponry to the courageous resistance, the Islamic Republic of Iran, [which] has not skimped in extending funds, weaponry, and technology to the resistance," Haniyeh said on a Hamas Telegram channel in May 2021.

Graphic posted to Khamenei's website on May 7
Graphic posted to Khamenei's website on May 7

In late April, Iran demanded that Israel “stop crimes” against Palestinians and East Jerusalem residents. “The Palestinian land belongs to Palestinian people, and the Israeli regime is a usurper and occupying regime,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said on April 25. For two weeks, Israeli police had barricaded Damascus Gate plaza, a popular place for Palestinians to gather during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan and a main entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City. Israel also limited the number of Palestinians allowed to come from the West Bank to pray at the al Aqsa mosque – the third holiest site in Islam – to 10,000 worshippers, all of whom had to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Tensions rose in early May amid clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police in East Jerusalem over the potential evictions of six Arab families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei decried Israel as a “despotic regime” and praised the “recent uprising of youth in defending” al Aqsa mosque. “Israel is not a country, rather it is a terrorist camp against the Palestinian nation and other Muslim nations,” he said in a speech on May 7. Israeli police raided the mosque the same day.

Iranian leaders offered unequivocal support after Palestinian militants in Gaza fired rockets at Israeli cities, and Israel responded with airstrikes on May 10. Khamenei called on Palestinians to “confront the enemy” and “stand strong” against Israel. “One can only talk with the language of strength with these criminals,” he said in a video message on May 11. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif released a video in Arabic on May 11 condemning Israel as “racist” and calling for a “popular referendum” to determine the future of the Holy Land.  

Iran threw its diplomatic support behind Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the two militant groups firing rockets at Israel. Zarif spoke by phone with Ismail Haniyeh, the political chief of Hamas, on May 11 and with Ziyad al Nakhalah , the secretary general of PIJ, on May 12. The foreign minister “reiterated Iran's all-out support for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause,” according to a readout of the call with Haniyeh. On May 15, Zarif canceled a trip to Austria after the government flew an Israeli flag on the roof of its foreign ministry and chancellery.

Iran also tried to mobilize its neighbors and allies to oppose Israel’s air campaign. On May 11, Zarif traveled to Damascus and discussed the situation in Gaza with President Bashar al Assad. Between May 13 and 17, President Hassan Rouhani spoke with the leaders of Qatar, Turkey and Iraq by phone. He urged Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi to make the Arab League “more active on the Palestine issue.” Rouhani asked Qatar and Turkey to exert diplomatic pressure to stop the airstrikes. “The attacks and aggressions of the Zionist Regime against the Palestinian people and Gaza must be stopped immediately,” Rouhani told Qatari Emir Tamim al Thani.

On May 20, Israel and Hamas agreed to an Egypt-brokered ceasefire that went into effect the next morning. On May 21, Khamenei congratulated the Palestinians on their “victory” over Israel. “Greetings to the heroic, resistant Gaza. Greetings to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and all jihadi and political groups in Palestine,” he wrote. “The savage, wolf-like enemy has realized correctly that it is powerless when facing the unified uprising of Palestine.” The following are statements by Iranian leaders on fighting between Israelis and Palestinians. 


Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei 

Open letter to Palestinians on May 21: “My greetings to the powerful, oppressed Palestine. Greetings to the brave, zealous Palestinian youth. Greetings to the heroic, resistant Gaza. Greetings to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and all Jihadi and political groups in Palestine.

“I thank God, the Almighty and Omnipotent, for granting His assistance and for the honor He has bestowed on the Palestinian fighters. I ask God, the Beneficent, to bestow tranquility and peace of mind on the injured hearts of the bereaved, to shower His mercy and glad tidings on the martyrs and to completely heal the wounded. I also extend my congratulations on this victory against the criminal Zionist regime.  

Khamenei“The recent test over these few days has honored the Palestinian nation. The savage, wolf-like enemy has realized correctly that it is powerless when facing the unified uprising of Palestine. This test–the cooperation between Quds and the Western Bank with Gaza and the 1948 territories and Palestinian camps has shown the future solution to the Palestinians. Over the past 12 days, the violent regime committed immense crimes, especially in Gaza. They have proven in practice that it can behave so shamelessly and idiotically as a result of its incapability in confronting the unified uprising of the Palestinians, that it provokes the public opinion of the world against itself. They have added to the hatred against themselves and the Western governments that support it, in particular the criminal U.S. The continuation of their crimes and their request for a truce mean the defeat of the Zionists. The Zionists were forced to accept defeat.

“The malicious regime will become even weaker. The preparedness of the Palestinian youth, the show of power by valuable Jihadi groups and a continual increase in the elements of power will make Palestine stronger day by day, and it will render the usurping enemy weaker and more despicable with each passing day.

“The time to begin and to end the clashes depend on the discernment of the great Jihadi and political leaders of Palestine. But being prepared and maintaining a powerful presence in the field cannot be stopped. The experience in Sheikh Jarrah in resisting the aggression of the regime and the mercenary inhabitants of the settlements should become a perpetual plan of action for the courageous people of Palestine. I salute the valiant youth of Sheikh Jarrah.

“The entire world of Islam has responsibilities and religious obligations with respect to the Palestinian cause. Political commonsense and experience in ruling and governing confirm and put emphasis on this religious edict. Muslim governments should earnestly enter the field to support the Palestinian nation in both military and financial areas–which is needed more than the past–and to help in the rebuilding infrastructures and the ruins in Gaza.

“The nations demanding and pursuing this matter is a source of support for this religious and political call. Muslim nations should demand that their governments carry out their duties. Nations themselves have the responsibility to provide financial and political support as much as they are able to.

“Another important responsibility is pursuing the matter of the punishment of the terrorist, bloodthirsty Zionist regime. All conscientious people in the world agree that the widespread crime of massacring Palestinian children and women over the past 12 days should not remain unpunished. All of the regime’s agents who were involved in this crime and the criminal Netanyahu himself should be prosecuted and punished by independent international courts of law. And this will surely happen with God’s power, 'And Allah has command of His affairs' (Holy Qur’an, 12:21).”

Video message on May 11: “In the recent events of Al Aqsa Mosque, Palestine and Holy Quds, the Zionists' malicious behavior is being seen by the eyes of the people of the world. It is truly everyone's duty to take a stance and condemn this malicious, criminal, barbaric behavior of the Zionists in recent days.”

“Fortunately, the Palestinians are awake and firm. They must continue on this path. One can only talk with the language of strength with these criminals. They must increase their strength, stand strong and confront them. They must force them to stop their crimes and to surrender to truth and justice.”

Speech on Qods Day on May 7: “Israel is not a country, rather it is a terrorist camp against the Palestinian nation and other Muslim nations. Fighting against this despotic regime is fighting against oppression and terrorism. And this is a collective responsibility.”

“There are two determining factors in the future: First and foremost is the continued activities of resistance in the Palestinian lands and the strengthening of the line of jihad and martyrdom and second, global support, on the part of governments and Muslim nations throughout the world, for the Palestinian mujahids.”

“Contrary to the downward movement of the regime, an increase in the capabilities of the camp of Resistance is a sign of a bright future: An increase in defensive and military power, self-sufficiency in building effective weapons, the self-confidence of mujahids, the increasing awareness of youth, the extension of the Resistance circle to the entire country of Palestine and beyond, the recent uprising of youth in defending Masjid al Aqsa and the simultaneous promotion of the Palestinian nation’s spirit of jihad and innocence among public opinion in many parts of the world.”


President Hassan Rouhani

Phone call with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi on May 17: “With respect to Iraq's membership in the Arab League, we expect them to attempt to make the League more active in the Palestine issue.”

Phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip on May 16: “The issue of Palestine is the most important common issue of the Islamic community and confronting these crimes and the rapid termination of brutal attacks and killing of oppressed, defenseless people is a must.”

“Islamic countries, especially Iran and Turkey, as two important and effective countries in the region, should collaborate with each other and take advantage of all international potentials, including the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, to confront the aggressions and crimes of the Zionist Regime.”

Phone call with Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al Thani on May 13: "The bitter events of the last few days and the crimes of the Zionist Regime emphasizes the need for unity and cooperation among Islamic countries to confront the Zionist coercion and occupation.”

"It is necessary for Islamic countries to cooperate with each other to defend the Palestinian people and the freedom of the country and confront the Zionist Regime's aggression and hostile and racist actions, which we have witnessed in recent days during the holy month of Ramadan.”

"The attacks and aggressions of the Zionist Regime against the Palestinian people and Gaza must be stopped immediately, and we must not allow these oppressed people to be oppressed anymore.”

Remarks to Cabinet on May 12:  "What have the oppressed people of Gaza and al Quds done that you are killing and committing so many crimes against them?"

“The Zionists have always sought to portray Iran as an enemy of the region and their neighbors, and some governments have unknowingly believed that Iran is their enemy, but the 11th and 12th governments tried to dispel this misconception.”


Foreign Minister Javad Zarif

Statement to the U.N. General Assembly (delivered by proxy) on May 20: “During the past week, Israeli forces have bombarded the Gaza Strip, the world’s biggest open-air prison, and through waging a disproportionate war by resorting to advanced weaponry in the most cruel and brutal manner have massacred hundreds of Palestinians and injured thousands of civilians. In the midst of an ongoing pandemic, the Israeli military attack against Gaza has destroyed thousands of homes, flattened entire apartment buildings as well as commercial buildings, including those housing journalists, and damaged other civilian vital infrastructures in a blatant and systematic violation of human rights, humanitarian law and international law. They even killed the head of Gaza Covid-19 response team.

“And yet, the Security Council – despite the continued mass dispossession, occupation, and persecution of the Palestinian people by the Israeli regime – remains obstructed by the U.S. from upholding its Charter duties and shouldering its responsibility to stop violation of United Nations resolutions. In this regard, the General Assembly, as the collective conscience of the international community, has a vital responsibility to condemn Israel’s military aggression and its ethnic cleansing and adopt necessary measures to hold Israel accountable for its war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“The immoral approach of some Western governments in equating victims with culprits is reprehensible, unjust and unacceptable. Denial of the total asymmetry in the situation of an occupier and oppressor against an occupied and oppressed people not only exposes hypocrisy and an extreme lack of moral compass but amounts to complicity in the crimes perpetrated against Palestinians. We emphasize that the people of Palestine are fully entitled to defend themselves and to defy the tyrannical tactics of this racist apartheid regime. The usurpation of another Arab neighborhood surrounding Al–Aqsa mosque proves the futility of normalization by some Arab states. 

“It is evident that the only path to peace in Palestine is the holding of a referendum among all residents of Palestine, Jews, Christians and Muslims, including displaced Palestinians and refugees.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran, Mr. President, reaffirms its strong support for and solidarity with the just cause of Palestine and reaffirms its commitment to continue supporting the Palestinian people in their quest to achieve their inalienable rights and legitimate national aspirations, including their right to self-determination, freedom and independence in their State of Palestine with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.”


Speech at a virtual meeting of Organization of Islamic Cooperation foreign ministers on May 16: “Innocent men, women and children are being massacred by the deadliest and most sophisticated weapons. Homes are being demolished while their residents are trapped inside. Whatever remains of the infrastructure in Gaza—including power and water supply—is effectively destroyed.”

“These barbaric acts have proven once again that the only peaceful path to peace in Palestine is the holding of a referendum among all residents of Palestine, including displaced Palestinians and refugees.”

“It must not be forgotten that Palestine is not only an Arab or Islamic issue, but also an international dilemma. The crimes committed against the innocent Palestinian people over decades weigh heavy on the conscience of humanity. The international community therefore has a duty to condemn the Israeli regime in the strongest terms and compel it to end the destruction and siege of Gaza.”

“We should continue to work actively in the United Nations to urgently convene an emergency session of the General Assembly to address this issue.”

Readout of phone call with Ziyad al Nakhaleh, Secretary-General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, on May 12: “In the Wednesday phone call, Zarif underlined Iran's continued support for the people and resistance of Palestine. He described the Palestinian people's patience and resistance as a source of pride, and expressed Iran's preparedness to support the Palestinian people and resistance. Al Nakhaleh, in turn, appreciated the constant support of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Readout of phone call with Ismail Haniyeh, political chief of Hamas, on May 11: “In a telephone conversation on Monday night, Hamas Political Bureau Chief Ismail Haniyeh briefed Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the latest situation in the occupied territories and the usurping Zionist regime's attacks against Palestinians as well as the Palestinian people's all-out resistance.

“During the phone call, Haniyeh also asked Foreign Minister Zarif for Iran's support for the Palestinian people's resistance.

“The Iranian foreign minister, in turn, reaffirmed Iran's solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine, and condemned the usurping and brutish Zionist regime's measures against the fasting people of Palestine as well as its attack against Al Aqsa Mosque and martyring and wounding defenseless worshippers. Zarif reiterated Iran's all-out support for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause.”

“He also briefed Haniyeh on his consultations with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on supporting the Palestinian people's resistance at the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).”




Translation of Arabic Tweet on May 11: "The attack on the Al Aqsa Mosque and the killing of worshippers is the greatest evidence of the racist and criminal nature of the usurper entity [Israel] which has always been the main reason for the lack of security and stability in the region. There is a sole and just solution for the Palestinian issue, which is represented in the will of the people of this land and adherence to a popular referendum." 



Tweet on May 10: 


Tweet on May 6:


Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council

Tweet on May 12:


Major General Hossein Salami, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander

May 19, 2021 at a rally in Tehran: “Tehran backs the Palestinians' fight against the Zionist regime.”

“Today we are witnessing the birth of a new Palestine... fighting with missiles.”

“A new Israel has also emerged, one that is broken, frustrated, downcast, that has lost confidence in itself.”

“The battle for Palestine is not only one of the Palestinians against the Israelis,” it also “symbolizes the battle of Muslims against world arrogance.”


Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi

Tweet on May 14:


U.N. Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi

Statement to the U.N. Security Council on May 16: “Concurrent with this meeting, the brutal forces of the Israeli regime are committing an actual massacre in Palestine, particularly in Gaza Strip – the world’s largest open prison -- where until now 192 Palestinians, including 58 children and 34 women have been martyred.

“The Israeli forces are cowardly killing defenseless women; cold-bloodedly slaughtering innocent infants and children; viciously killing family members altogether; brazenly desecrating holy places; inhumanely bombing and shelling residential areas, schools and health facilities; and senselessly demolishing houses. Long story short: they are committing all four core international crimes simultaneously and altogether.

“The question is why the Israeli forces are committing such mass cruelties. Because the Palestinians have raised their voices against the Israeli forces who are confiscating their ancestorial lands in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, in Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, Al-Tur and other areas; have protested against demolishing their houses, where they have lived generations after generations; have resisted forced eviction from their own houses; and have protested against the attack of the Israeli security forces against the Muslim worshipers in the Al-Aqsa mosque during the holy month of Ramadhan.

“Make no mistake: these are the greatest sins if you are a Palestinian and living in Palestine, where a racist and apartheid regime, founded on aggression, occupation and oppression, is committing heinous crimes against them.”


Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh

Tweet on May 21: 


Statement on April 25: “Stop crimes against Palestinian people and residents of al-Quds… The Palestinian land belongs to Palestinian people, and the Israeli regime is a usurper and occupying regime, and the only way to settle the Palestinian crisis is to hold a referendum among the real residents of Palestinian territories.”

Some of the information in this article was originally published on May 18, 2021.