TEHRAN — Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threw generous praise at the militant Palestinian movement Hamas for a wave of deadly attacks and hostage taking well inside Israel over the weekend, that has left so far more than 1,000 Israelis dead.
Addressing cadets at a Tehran military academy on Tuesday, Khamenei hailed Hamas for the “epic” victory and the “destructive earthquake” it inflicted upon Israel.
“We do kiss the foreheads and the arms of the smart masterminds and the Palestinian youths,” the Iranian leader said as reported by his official website.
Khamenei maintained that for years to come, Israel will have to reel from the “irreparable” devastation it was dealt by the Palestinians militants. Using his signature rhetoric against Iran’s arch-foe, Khamenei described Israel as a “usurper” and a “tyrannical,” “ignorant” and “monstrous” entity.
The Iranian leader, who holds the final say in the country’s foreign policy and military affairs, warned that an even “bigger calamity” awaits Israel should it continue “committing crimes” against the Palestinians.
Yet the 84-year-old cleric denied his country’s involvement. “The supporters of the [Israeli] regime and the regime itself have in the past few days kept saying nonsense, including that the Islamic Republic was behind the move,” he said. “They are miscalculating,” he added, reasserting, “Of course, we do defend Palestine and its struggle.”
Khamenei was responding to arguments from Israeli officials and Western media reports that Iran was directly involved in the attacks or at last gave the green light to the Palestinian militants, whom it has been funding and arming for much of the past four decades. Hamas officials have made contradictory comments as to whether they were backed by Tehran in the attacks.
Earlier on Monday, the United States warned the Islamic Republic and its main proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, to stay out of the ongoing conflict. And amid speculation that Iran could be targeted if the conflict escalates and spreads, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani declared on Monday that Tehran’s response to any “stupid” move will be devastating.
The lightning operation that caught the world by surprise occurred four days after Khamenei openly expressed his unease with normalization efforts between the Arab world and Israel. The last Arab state to have expressed such willingness was Saudi Arabia, which without naming, Khamenei advised that such rapprochement would be “betting on the losing horse.”
As prospects of further Arab-Israeli reconciliation appeared complicated amid the escalating conflict, the deputy speaker of the Iranian Parliament, Mojtaba Zolnouri, expressed hope that following the Hamas attacks, “the issue of recognizing Israel by the regional countries will be shelved forever.”
From the early hours into the Hamas operation, Iran’s state media organs have been applauding the “glorious triumph,” extensively publishing footage of Israelis being kidnapped and dragged away. To them, the attacks exposed Israel’s vulnerabilities and shattered the Jewish state’s “myth of invincibility,” as they saw the beginning of the end of Israel and “the moment of truth” promised by Khamenei.
In the latest, the official X (Twitter) account of the Iran newspaper — the leading media platform of the government in Tehran — drew strong criticism among many Iranians after posting a controversial cartoon.
The design featured what appeared to be a Palestinian youth posing with the victory sign while holding a balloon that read “1K,” presumably a reference to the mounting casualties on the Israeli side.
“We just hit the 1,000 mark,” the paper read.