Senior Iranian leaders on Wednesday hosted a delegation of top officials from Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a deadly anti-Israel terror group that is sanctioned by the U.S. State Department.
The PIJ delegation arrived in Tehran on Wednesday to hold high-level meetings with leading Iranian lawmakers, as well as with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who also is leading nuclear negotiations with the West, according to regional reports and photographs.
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Zarif expressed his support for PIJ’s "resistance" against Israel, which includes terror attacks, suicide bombings, and the murder of Jewish citizens.
"The resistance will undoubtedly succeed in defending the rights of Palestinians," Zarif was quoted as saying by Iran’s state-run PressTV following a meeting with PIJ’s deputy secretary general Ziyad al Nakhalah.
Terrorism experts warned that Iran’s nuclear diplomacy continues to be coupled with support for terror groups across the globe.
"This underscores the fact that despite the ongoing diplomacy between Iran and the U.S. over its nuclear program, Iran continues to sponsor terrorism around the world," said Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Treasury Department. "PIJ is now perhaps the most dangerous actor in the Gaza Strip in light of the support it receives from the Iranian regime."
Iranian lawmakers who met with the PIJ delegation praised the group’s efforts to destroy Israel.
"Resistance and campaign against the Zionist regime is the only way to liberate Palestine and securing the rights of its oppressed people," Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani was quoted as saying during a meeting with PIJ leaders.
PIJ member Ramazan Abdullah responded by saying that "Iran has always been the main supporter of the Palestinian nation's cause and goals," according to Iran’s Fars News Agency.
PIJ, with support from Iran, has grown close to Hamas.
It has been sanctioned by the State Department for conducting "numerous attacks, including large-scale suicide bombings against Israeli civilian and military targets," among them terror attacks that have killed Americans. The State Department has additionally noted that PIJ "receives financial assistance and training primarily from Iran."
The very public and high-level meetings between Iran and the PIJ are a sign that this relationship has not waned as Tehran attempts to court the West. Iran’s ties to the terror group Hezbollah have also grown stronger in recent months.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s has noted in the past that Iran has "direct involvement in the Palestinian and Lebanese confrontation against Israel."
PIJ’s Abdullah noted during his meeting with Iranian leaders that "the only way for Palestinians to move forward is to follow the path of resistance," according to PressTV.