Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has linked the recent assault by Hamas on Israel with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and criticised Iran over both conflicts.
On Monday, he likened the Palestinian armed group to Russia, saying it was a “terrorist organisation” while Russia can be considered a “terrorist state”.
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Zelenskyy told NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly in Copenhagen via video link: “The only difference is that there is a terrorist organisation that attacked Israel and here is a terrorist state that attacked Ukraine. The intentions declared are different, but the essence is the same.”
Ukraine said about 1,000 Iranian-designed Shahed drones were used by Russia over the past six months.
“Iran can’t say it has nothing to do with what is going on in Ukraine if it sells Shaheds to Russia. Iran can’t say it has nothing to do with what is going on in Israel if its officials claim the support of what is going on in Israel,” Zelenskyy said.
Israel was caught off guard on Saturday when Hamas launched an attack, blowing up parts of the country’s highly fortified separation fence, and sending fighters into Israeli communities along the Gaza frontier.
The surprise assault set off a major war between Israel and the armed group, which has so far killed more than 1,100 people.
The conflict continues to escalate, with Israel on Monday declaring that it will impose a “total blockade” on Gaza, the besieged, densely populated Palestinian strip often described as an “open-air prison”, where 120,000 people have already been displaced due to the latest tensions. Palestinian fears of an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza are growing.
Iran has denied it has supplied Russia with Shahed kamikaze drones for use in Ukraine and has said it is not involved in the weekend’s attacks on Israel.
An Israeli army spokesperson said on Saturday that “Iran’s tentacles” were “everywhere” when asked about a possible role. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there was no evidence Iran was behind the attacks on Israel, but he said there were longstanding ties between Tehran and Hamas.
Iran has voiced support for Hamas after its attack, but slammed the allegations of involvement in Hamas’s operation as politically motivated.
Rahim Safavi, an adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei, was quoted by the semi-official ISNA news site, saying: “We congratulate the Palestinian fighters … We will stand by the Palestinian fighters until the liberation of Palestine and Jerusalem.”
Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said attacks by Hamas were proof of the Palestinians’ increased confidence in the face of Israel’s occupation.
Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Tehran, said Iran’s solidarity with Hamas is historical.
“Iran, since the revolution of 1979, has really seen itself as a Shia minority in the Middle East – it’s [one of few] Shia majority [countries in the region].
“There were a number of steps taken by the founder of the revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, to ensure that Iran’s position remained secure.
“One was to align with resistance groups, not just Shia groups like Hezbollah, but also like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to ensure their own existence down the line.
“Israel has always been a point of contention for Iran. They don’t believe Israel has a right to exist as a country. They say Palestine is a country that has been oppressed.”