“Thank You, Iran!”

Reuters reports on what some may see as a touching display of gratitude: “Gazans say ‘Thank you Iran’ after Israel conflagration.”

Gazans offered very public thanks to Iran on Tuesday for helping them in this month’s fight against Israel, when Iranian-made missiles were fired out of the Palestinian enclave towards Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

“Thank you Iran”, said large billboards on three major road junctions in the Gaza Strip – the first time there has been such public acknowledgement of Iran’s role in the arming of Islamic militants in the tiny territory.

This is one of the signs:

The message was written in Arabic, English, Hebrew and Farsi. The posters also depicted the Iranian Fajr 5 rockets that were used for the first time to target Israel’s two largest population centres. …

The billboards were not signed, but a senior official with the militant group Islamic Jihad, Khader Habib, said it was only natural to show gratitude for Iran’s role in the conflict.

“Iranian rockets struck at Tel Aviv. They reached out to Jerusalem. Therefore it was our duty to thank those who helped our people,” he told Reuters.

Of course, Iran didn’t only supply Hamas with the rockets that were fired after the Israelis began their bombardment; rather, the rockets that Gaza has been firing for years, and that were the cause of the recent conflict, came from Iran, too. Until now, Iran and Hamas have been relatively coy about their partnership, but they seem to have come out of the closet:

Israel has always asserted that arch-foe Tehran supplied Gaza with weapons, but until the latest conflict both Iran and Gaza’s dominant Islamist group Hamas had side-stepped the issue, acknowledging only financial backing and warm political ties.

During the eight-day conflagration, the Iranian speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani, said Iran was “honoured” to have provided Gaza with military aid. Following the ceasefire, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal thanked Iran for arms and funding.

The public statements appeared aimed at dispelling speculation that the mainly Sunni Muslim Gaza Strip was shutting the door on Shi’ite Iran and turning instead to neighbouring Egypt for support and protection.

Well, maybe. But I suspect the reason is simpler. The recent conflict is seen around the Muslim world as a great victory for Hamas and for Gaza, and Iran wanted to take a bow and get its share of the credit. An Israeli analyst thinks Iran made a mistake by acknowledging its role as an arms supplier to terrorists:

Israeli analyst Meir Javedanfar said he thought the Iranians would regret telling the world they supplied Hamas with arms.

“Now that such high-ranking officials openly admit to having supplied weapons to groups in Gaza, the job of isolating Iran will be even easier than before,” said Javedanfar, an Iranian expert at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya.

Somehow I doubt that Iran will see any negative fallout from this public acknowledgement of its long-known role as a key supplier of arms to terrorist groups.

PAUL ADDS: Maybe Israel should violate the cease fire long enough to take out those billboards.

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