While many analysts and most of the international community refuses to acknowledge Iran's role in fueling tensions on Israel's border with Gaza, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar this week boasted of his organization's "strong and warm" ties with Iran and Hizballah.
In an interview Monday with Lebanon's Al-Mayadeen TV channel, Sinwar admitted that Iran funnels "a lot of money, equipment and expertise" to Hamas' military wing and other Gaza-based terrorist organizations, reports the Middle East Media and Research Institute (MEMRI),
For helping Hamas develop its capabilities, Sinwar thanked "first and foremost the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has provided the Al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas' military wing) and the other factions of the resistance a lot of money, equipment, and expertise," adding that "our ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran, with brother Qasem Soleimani and the other brothers in the IRGC leadership are very strong, powerful, and warm. Our relations with the Islamic Republic are excellent."
In December, senior Hamas official Saleh Al-Arouri bragged about Hamas' ties with Iran and Hizballah, and formally credited the Islamic Republic for arming Palestinian terrorist groups.
"Who supports the resistance in Gaza and Palestine? Iran. It is Iran and Hizballah that confront that entity [Israel] along with us," Al-Arouri said in a Dec. 30 interview on Al-Quds TV.
He admitted that "the aid Iran provides to the resistance is not merely symbolic" and that "nobody but Iran gives us [Palestinian terrorist groups] any military support."
In his latest interview, Sinwar also discussed "excellent relations" with Hizballah and revealed that both terrorist groups "coordinate and are in touch on an almost daily basis."
This is the latest in a growing number of statements from senior Hamas and Hizballah leaders acknowledging that relations have reached new heights – to the point where Hizballah is helping Hamas build military infrastructure in south Lebanon to threaten Israel.
These connections and public admissions are ignored by Israel bashers in the West.
Prominent American Islamists, like Linda Sarsour, continue to propagate the narrative that Israel massacred peaceful, unarmed Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border in recent weeks. Even articles in respected policy outlets like Foreign Policy tow this view.
Hamas leaders, on the other hand, openly admit that they coordinated the violent demonstrations and orchestrated several attacks on the border with Israel.
"This is not peaceful resistance... so when we talk about 'peaceful resistance,' we are deceiving the public," Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said in a May 13 interview with Al-Jazeera, adding that Hamas' efforts at the border are "bolstered by a military force and by security agencies."
Iran and its main proxy Hizballah are actively supplying Hamas with weapons and talking on a near daily basis to coordinate terrorist operations against the Jewish state.
This nuance is largely omitted from mainstream media analyses – further promoting Hamas public deception campaign, knowingly or not.
New sanctions are around the corner that could help "crush" Iran's ability to fund terrorism and its nuclear program, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday in a speech at The Heritage Foundation. Pompeo promised the "strongest sanctions in history." He listed 12 demands that Iran would need to fulfill to have the sanctions lifted. These demands include an end to Iran's support for terror; carte blanche inspection of Iranian nuclear sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); and ending ballistic missile proliferation.
"We will track down Iranian operatives and their Hizballah proxies operating around the world and we will crush them," Pompeo said. "Iran will never again have carte blanche to dominate the Middle East."
On May 8, President Trump announced the end of U.S. participation in the Iran deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). European governments, however, say they plan to remain in the agreement.
Pompeo slammed the Obama administration, which negotiated and pushed for the deal, for failing to listen to critics who argued that releasing approximately $100 billion in frozen assets to Iran would increase its ability to support terrorism.
"Remember, Iran advanced its march across the Middle East during the JCPOA," Pompeo said. Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force chief "Qasem Soleimani has been playing with house money that has become blood money. Wealth created by the West has fueled his campaigns."
Iran used the released money from the JCPOA to fund the IRGC, the Taliban, Hizballah, Hamas and the Houthis in Yemen, Pompeo said. Iranian backed militias under Soleimani's leadership control a wide swath of territory between the Iran-Iraq borders all the way to the Mediterranean. Israel recently launched retaliatory strikes on Iranian targets in Syria after Iranian rockets landed in the Golan Heights.
Al-Qaida leaders also continue to be harbored in Iran.
Not surprisingly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rejected Pompeo's demands, saying Iran will "continue our path with the support of our nation."
Last week, the Trump administration sanctioned the IRGC Quds Force and imposed sanctions on the head of Iran's central bank, which Pompeo said funded Hizballah and other terrorist organizations.
"The Iranian economy is already in free fall. That has to put a crimp in the regime's capacity to fund surrogates. If the administration follows through there certainly won't be more money to spread around," James Carafano, vice president and director of the Center for Foreign Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, told the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT).
Other Iranians responded by creating #ThankYouPompeo and #IranRegimeChange hashtags on Twitter.
Hamas official Salah Bardawil may have destroyed the narrative that Israel is indiscriminately killing non-violent protesters at the Gaza border. The vast majority of Palestinians killed, Bardawil told a Palestinian interviewer, were Hamas fighters.
"In the last rounds of confrontations, if 62 people were martyred, 50 of them were Hamas," Bardawil said in a televised interview on Wednesday.
"I am giving you an official figure," he added, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
A day earlier, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) also claimed that the IDF killed three terrorists from its military wing in Khan Younis.
Before Bardawil's interview, Hamas issued a memorial to 10 of its dead fighters.
Both Hamas and PIJ published photos eulogizing some of the dead terrorists as martyrs.
While some cast the latest clashes as a reaction to the U.S. Embassy opening in Jerusalem, they follow weeks of violent protests at Israel's border with Gaza. From late March through the end of April, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center found that 80 percent of the Palestinians killed were terrorist operatives or affiliates.
Most were tied to Hamas, but 10 of the terrorists killed during that time period were Fatah members.
Earlier this week, senior Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahhar acknowledged that the Gaza demonstrations were "not peaceful resistance" and Hamas's efforts at the border are "bolstered by a military force and by security agencies."
"This is a clear terminological deception [i.e. "peaceful resistance"]. When you are in possession of weapons that were able to withstand the occupation in the wars of 2006, 2008, 2012, and 2014... This is not peaceful resistance... so when we talk about 'peaceful resistance,' we are deceiving the public," Al-Zahhar said in a May 13 interview with Al-Jazeera and reported by MEMRI.
Several killed Hamas members were sons of prominent Hamas officials, including deputy labor minister Musa al-Sambak. Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh's son and two of his nephews were also wounded in the clashes, according to a Meir Amit analysis.
By organizing and promoting the riots, Hamas officials literally sacrificed their own children's lives and safety for a propaganda victory.
This type of behavior is consistent with Hamas' strategy of sabotaging its own people's livelihood to prioritize its fight against Israel.
Officials in the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) continue to give the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) unconstitutional preferential treatment in an anti-bullying program, the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF) argued in court papers filed earlier this week.
FCDF sued on behalf of several area parents and two interest groups. It has asked the court for a preliminary injunction forcing the school district to stop working with CAIR, arguing that working with a religious organization violates the U.S. Constitution's Establishment Clause.
CAIR played a central role in formulating anti-Islamophobia curriculum the school district passed in April 2017. School officials also contemplated entering into a formal partnership with CAIR. But they changed their minds last July, opting to partner instead with the Anti-Defamation League and to create an Intercultural Relations Community Council (IRCC).
Those moves, school board lawyers argued in a recent brief, render FCDF's legal claim moot. CAIR, in an amicus – or friend of the court – brief, argued that the curriculum it helped develop did not teach Islamic texts as religious truths, and claimed it served the secular purpose of striving to deter bullying of Muslim students.
School district officials concede that CAIR's mission is religious in nature, but that an injunction would be the same as "requiring that SDUSD discriminate against CAIR because it has a religious mission." FCDF contends that CAIR views the free exercise clause of the 1st Amendment as a sanction to advance its religious agenda with governmental support, which it argues runs afoul of the Establishment Clause.
CAIR San Diego Executive Director Hanif Mohebi, however, denied that CAIR's mission was primarily religious last year, after FCDF first filed its suit.
Records show the school district and CAIR continued to work closely despite the July vote. Mohebi was appointed to the serve on the IRCC.
In addition, school district officials hosted CAIR representatives at least six times for high-level meetings. Superintendent Cindy Marten sought CAIR's input from CAIR about the ADL curriculum when it came to "addressing Islamophobia," the brief said. The school district also gave CAIR special recognition in November.
School officials say they work with CAIR as they would with any other community organization, but FCDF Executive Director Daniel Piedra says the district gave CAIR preferential treatment.
"They can't get around the fact that nothing really has changed, and that the intercultural committee was created to keep Mohebi and CAIR involved in the school district," Piedra said.
In yet another long and disoriented rant, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday took his anti-Semitic sentiment to a new level.
Abbas told a Palestinian National Council session that the Jewish people – not anti-Semitism or the Nazis – caused the Holocaust through their "social behavior," the Times of Israel reported.
According to Abbas, the mass genocide of more than 6 million Jews was a result of the Jews "social behavior, [charging] interest, and financial matters."
Abbas also claimed that Israel is a European colonial project, that European Jews have "no historical ties" to Israel, and that "those who sought a Jewish state weren't Jews."
Denying Jewish identity and Jewish rights to any part of Israel are other forms of anti-Semitism that Abbas frequently embraces.
He also repeated his stubborn rejection of any peace plan proposal led by the Trump administration, even before it has been formally presented.
In a series of public statements since Trump's announcement to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, Abbas has propagated claims that are outlandish even by his own, often radical, standards.
In a Jan. 14 address to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Central Council, Abbas spent more than two hours ranting about the history of Zionism in a conspiratorial fashion. He claimed that Jews moved to Israel solely for ideological and colonial reasons, not because of persecution "even during the Holocaust."
In the same speech, he went off on a blatantly anti-Semitic tirade that attempted to de-legitimize any Jewish presence in the state of Israel: "The significance of Israel's functional character is that colonialism created it in order to fill a specific role; it is a colonialist project that is not connected to Judaism, but made use of the Jews so they would serve as pawns..."
These anti-Semitic comments are reminiscent of his Holocaust denying doctoral thesis, which grossly underestimates the number of Jews killed in the genocide and focuses on an unsubstantiated relationship between Zionists and Nazis.
While trying to present a moderate face for years, recent developments show that the Palestinian president has become a hostile and outwardly racist leader that continues to alienate the Palestinian people.
"All the Jewish people are combatants" acceptable as targets for attacks in Israel, Sheikh Mohammed Rateb Nabulsi wrote in his 2001 "ruling on martyrdom operations in Palestine."
"They do not have a career that a military rank does not encounter: doctor, pilot, engineer, for example, is a tank commander. Every civilian, citizen," he wrote. "They do not have a regular army; they have a reserve army, and all the people can fight, so this is essentially an entirely aggressive entity from A to Z. This is the Sharia ruling."
He deleted this fatwa from his Arabic website in 2014 after the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) first wrote about a U.S. visit on behalf of the Syrian American Council (SAC) and Shaam Relief. A cache of the original post remains available. SAC worked to cover up the fatwa for State Department officials.
Nabulsi spoke Monday at the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., and last week at a middle school near Orlando and at the Islamic Center of Boca Raton. He's scheduled to speak at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC) tonight, at Masjid al-Farooq in Brooklyn on Thursday, the Islamic Center of Passaic County (ICPC) on Friday, and Saturday at the Bergen County Islamic Center.
Mercy Without Limits chairman and President Mohamad Albadawi also serves as a trustee of the Muslim American Society (MAS), which prosecutors say was founded as the "overt arm" of the Muslim Brotherhood in America. He was listed in 1997 as the registered agent of the Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA) and his Mercy Without Limits biography says he served as executive director. MAYA hosted Osama Bin Laden's mentor Abdullah Azzam in 1989 and Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi in 1995. Albadawi spoke at MAYA's 1993 convention in Detroit.
Zuhdi Jasser, a Syrian-American and founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, condemned the mosques for treating Nabulsi as mainstream.
"It is incumbent upon every American Muslim especially the Syrian community to marginalize and defeat the ideas of radical Islamism peddled by the likes of Nabulsi," Jasser said.
Iran will not back down from supporting terrorist proxies in the region and spreading its Islamic ideology abroad, a senior official in Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has reiterated.
IRGC's operations "are not limited to Iran," Ali Fadavi, the IRGC's naval commander, said in an interview Monday with the Farsi language Jamaran site and reported by Al Arabiya.
Fadavi openly discussed the fact that IRGC operatives are currently "fighting the enemy thousands of kilometers away from our borders" – an offensive force posture seen as "necessary" to spread Iran's revolutionary ideology.
"Guarding the Islamic revolution does not only mean guarding one country and one government, i.e. Iran. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps does not have any appendage attached to it and these were the orders of Imam Khomeini," Fadavi said.
The IRGC's primary objective is not protecting Iran's national security, he said, but to spread Shi'a Islamist ideology across the entire Middle East and Muslim world.
Iran has flat out rejected any efforts to renegotiate the nuclear agreement, amid reports of European efforts last month to constrain Iran's regional expansion and ballistic missile program.
Speaking in Tehran earlier this month, Ayatollah Khamenei proclaimed that Europe and the United States have no right to discuss Iran's regional activities. The region, Khamenei said in the same speech, belongs to Iran, not Europe.
Last month, the European Union reportedly was mulling new sanctions over non-nuclear related activities in an effort to keep the United States from terminating the nuclear agreement.
In response, Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said that Iran "will not accept any changes, any interpretation or new measure aimed at limiting" the 2015 nuclear deal.
After a meeting in Tehran last month, Iran's foreign minister rejected his French counterpart's call to rein in Iran's missile program in an effort to preserve the nuclear agreement.
French President Emmanuel Macron and President Trump met Tuesday to discuss the Iran nuclear deal's future. Trump called the agreement a "terrible deal" because it did not include restrictions on Iran's ballistic missile program or destabilizing regional activities.
Recent statements from senior Iranian officials indicate that the Islamic Republic will not stop pursuing their quest for regional hegemony.
Despite facing growing unrest and a weakening economy, Iran continues to funnel massive amounts of money and resources to its main terrorist proxies, especially Hizballah, in order to expand its reach.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's recent budget allocates far more funds to regime-controlled religious charities and regional terrorist activities at the expense of domestic social and economic programs, according to an analysis Sunday in Al-Arabiya English.
Rouhani's government claims to be focused on reducing poverty and improving employment opportunities, yet it continues to cut subsidies on basic commodities and financial transfers to poor families amid rising fuel and food prices.
Instead of supporting its own people, Iran is devoting $7.4 billion to the military – primarily toward its ballistic missile program and Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)'s regional expansion.
Iran has flat out rejected any efforts to renegotiate the nuclear agreement, amid reports of European efforts last month to constrain Iran's regional expansion and ballistic missile program.
The Lebanese terrorist organization Hizballah is a major beneficiary of the latest budget. Iran "is believed by some analysts to fund it [Hizballah] to the tune of $300 million a year, although many now believe the sum is more like $1 billion," writes Tony Duheaume.
Combined with its international criminal enterprise and drug-smuggling network, Hizballah has no shortage of resources to continue consolidating operating bases to target Israel.
Hizballah's involvement in the international drug trade is well documented.
It cultivates a major base of operations in the Tri-Border Area (TBA), straddling Brazil and Argentina and Paraguay. With a large Muslim population featuring significant numbers of Hizballah sympathizers, the terrorist organization uses this area for recruitment, arms smuggling and drug trafficking, and logistics planning for terrorist operations.
The TBA remains "an important regional nexus of arms, narcotics, pirated goods, human smuggling, counterfeiting, and money laundering – all potential funding sources for terrorist organizations," the U.S. State Department has said.
A significant portion of the profit earned from Hizballah's illegal activities is laundered via car sales to Africa, in addition to used car dealerships in the United States.
With Iran's help, Hizballah has evolved from a clandestine terrorist group to a full-fledged guerilla organization and is now one of the most powerful hybrid terrorist-militaries in the Arab world. Iran continues to equip Hizballah with the latest sophisticated and advanced weaponry that poses a direct threat to Israel's national security.
Beyond military and terrorist capabilities, Hizballah enhances its propaganda infrastructure worldwide, publishing its own newspapers, magazines, and books promoting the Islamic Republic's ideology. Iran helps cover the $15 million per year required to sustain Hizballah's Al Manar satellite television network intended to broaden its ideological reach to Shi'a communities worldwide.
Hizballah's devotion to Iran's revolutionary ideology takes precedence over Lebanon's constitution, Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah said in a March 10 speech delivered to Iranians in Lebanon. Hizballah adheres to Ayatollah Khamenei's orders, Nasrallah added, and avoids engaging in any behavior that irritates the supreme leader. While Hizballah claims to be Lebanon's protector and vanguard, the speech reaffirms Hizballah's primary commitment to carrying out Iran's directives, even at the expense of Lebanese domestic interests.
In recent months, Israel-Iran tensions have evolved from covert and proxy battles to direct confrontations. Early Monday, Israel targeted the Syrian regime's T-4 military air base in Homs, killing at least seven Iranian personnel. One of the fatalities was a colonel with Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC), responsible for overseeing Iran's unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) unit. The IRGC ordered Iranian state-affiliated media outlets to retract articles describing the incident.
Iran's drone program is a growing threat to Israeli national security. The Islamic Republic is assisting its terrorist proxies – mainly Hizballah and Hamas – in acquiring and developing sophisticated drones to challenge Israel. Militant drones have been used to test Israel's air defenses and conduct surveillance over sensitive sites. In 2014, Hizballah reportedly was the first terrorist group to utilize an attack drone to kill rival militants in Syria and continues to incorporate aerial capabilities in its offensive operations.
Now, bypassing its proxies, Iran directly challenges Israel through its UAV program. In early February, Israel shot down an Iranian drone that infiltrated Israel's airspace. Israeli jets subsequently bombed several military targets in Syria, including some under Iranian control. In the process, Syrian air defenses downed an Israeli jet – the first time an Israeli military aircraft had been taken out by enemy fire since the 1980s.
That escalation marks the first direct confrontation between Israeli and Iranian forces. Iran may have been provoking an Israeli response, demonstrating a growing willingness to use Syria as a base to challenge Israel directly.
Israel has set red lines throughout the Syrian civil war, focused on preventing "game-changing" weapons from landing in Hizballah's hands and a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria. In late February, reports emerged proving that Iran constructed another military base in Syria with the ability to host missiles that can strike any part of the Jewish state.
Iran already oversees a military compound near the Damascus airport and other high-profile airbases and permanent military sites across the country.
In 2015, Israeli airstrikes in the Syrian Golan killed 11 members of the Hizballah-Iranian axis including senior Hizballah leaders and an Iranian general who were attempting to set up a base of terrorist operations to target Israel.
Israel's airstrike on Monday comes amid another high-casualty, Syrian regime chemical weapons attack targeting civilian neighbourhoods in Douma – a Damascus suburb. The timing of Israel's airstrike suggests that Israel is holding the Assad regime accountable for such a gruesome attack. However, Israel primarily is signaling to the Iranian regime that its neighboring drone program and permanent foothold in Syria is unacceptable.
Despite a growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Hamas carried out a two-day, large-scale military drill in Gaza earlier this week featuring 30,000 terrorist operatives, according to a Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center report.
Operatives from across Hamas' military wing – including air, land, and sea units – participated in the military exercises, demonstrating the terrorist organization's efforts to improve interoperability among its various components.
Fighters practiced attacking armored vehicles depicting IDF tanks, while test firing missiles into the Mediterranean Sea. Hamas also deployed drones with "Ababil" markings – one of Iran's signature unmanned aerial vehicles.
Terrorists also practiced emerging from underground tunnels and kidnapping Israeli soldiers.
The drill took place days before Land Day, in anticipation of more Palestinian demonstrations across Israel. The military maneuvers are intended to send signals to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority: that Hamas remains in control of Gaza and has the capacity to inflict considerable casualties against the Jewish state.
This latest development is further proof that Hamas is investing enormous amounts of resources into its military wing, prioritizing its terrorist capabilities over its own population's needs.
Earlier this month, Hamas was caught stealing electricity from a Gaza power line intended for civilian use amid reports of financial and humanitarian crises.
Western media outlets have been recently focusing on a "humanitarian" and "financial" crisis in Gaza Strip – often blaming Israel or internal Palestinian rifts. But a major, and overlooked, factor behind the Palestinian territory's woes is Hamas itself. The terrorist organization and rulers of the Gaza Strip often re-route humanitarian goods and energy intended for civilians to fuel its militant ambitions.
The terrorist group, along with other Palestinian militant organizations, continue to invest heavily in offensive tunnels used for smuggling and to plot attacks inside Israel.
Diverting international assistance and charitable donations help fuel Hamas' military build-up, including the latest two-day military drill.