Toronto Star: While media have widely reported on the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, few have picked up on the significant Iranian connection to the conflict. To begin, it should not be overlooked that many of the more than 1,000 missiles fired at Israelis in the past month were manufactured in Iran, transferred by Iran or built in Gaza with Iranian technology.
The Toronto Star
By Sayeh Hassan
While media have widely reported on the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, few have picked up on the significant Iranian connection to the conflict. Indeed, one cannot comprehend the events of recent weeks without an adequate understanding of Iran’s role in Gaza.
To begin, it should not be overlooked that many of the more than 1,000 missiles fired at Israelis in the past month were manufactured in Iran, transferred by Iran or built in Gaza with Iranian technology.
This includes, for example, the Iranian-built Fajr 5 and the made-in-Gaza M-75, both of which have a range of 75 kilometres. In 2012, Iran openly admitted to having given Hamas the technology to manufacture the M-75. These weapons have been a strategic game-changer for Hamas, allowing it to extend its range of attack to Israel’s two largest cities: Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The longer-range M-302, which enabled Hamas to hit cities in northern Israel, was reportedly imported from Syria via Iran.
Hamas has long depended on the Iranian-Syrian axis for arms, training and funding. These resources have had serious implications for Gaza since Israel left the territory entirely in 2005, a move that opened a window of opportunity for a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state-in-the-making to emerge. Hamas and Iran quickly moved in and closed that window, with tragic implications for the people of Gaza.
A 2007 Hamas coup within the Palestinian Authority enabled the group to seize control of Gaza and proceed to build a remarkably advanced infrastructure of terrorism. The territory is now replete with tunnels, bunkers and underground missile launch pads. In recent days, Hamas even launched its own drones over Israel.
None of this would be possible without extensive funding from Iran. At one point, the government of Egypt revealed that Iran was funnelling upwards of $300 million annually to Hamas.
Additional numbers are equally staggering. Prior to Israel’s current operation, terror groups in Gaza possessed an estimated 10,000 missiles. Hamas operatives, many of whom were trained in Iran, now also number at least 10,000. Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is even closer to Iran than is Hamas, boasts several thousand fighters in Gaza. Analysts have noted that the two factions have been competing to see which one can fire missiles deeper into Israel.
Despite a falling-out between Hamas and the Iranian-Syrian axis when the group moved its headquarters out of Damascus in the wake of the Syrian civil war, co-operation in fighting the common enemy, Israel, has resumed. As former commander of British forces in Afghanistan and a seasoned analyst of terrorist groups, Col. Richard Kemp, told AFP: “Hamas were very badly damaged by the Israeli Defense Forces back in 2012, but since that time they have been re-equipped significantly by Iran and also by weapons from Syria.”
Every missile made in Iran and fired by Hamas threatens Israeli civilians and puts Palestinian lives at risk by requiring Israel to take countermeasures. On that note, the news that Hamas is openly calling the people of Gaza to serve as human shields is particularly nauseating.
Iran’s mentorship of Hamas in Gaza is modelled on its development of Hezbollah in Lebanon. In both cases, Iran seeks to advance the Islamic Revolution throughout the Middle East and support local groups willing to wage a proxy war with Israel. Unfortunately, those who pay the price for Iran’s destructive ventures are Israelis and innocent Palestinians alike.
As an Iranian-Canadian who has spent years raising awareness of human rights violations inside Iran, it grieves me that Tehran’s brutal agenda is now playing itself out in Israel and Gaza. Were it not for the Iranian regime’s extensive role in laying the foundation for the current war, the past few weeks may have been very different for Israelis and Palestinians. Those of us in the West who care about peace in the Middle East should recognize that Tehran’s fingerprints are all over the current round of violence.
Sayeh Hassan is a criminal defence lawyer in Toronto and a pro-democracy activist fighting to change Iran’s Islamic regime.