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Inside Iran’s Quds Day Celebration of October 7

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The Islamic Republic’s officials and representatives of proxy forces celebrated Hamas and mourned IRGC generals killed in an Israeli strike.

In April, the Islamic Republic of Iran once again marked the last Friday of the month of Ramadan as Quds Day. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Iranian regime and its terror proxies and supporters around the world, including in theUnited States, have repeatedly used Quds Day as an opportunity to spread antisemitic hate, glorify terrorism, and call for the destruction of the State of Israel.

This year, in the eyes of the Islamic Republic, Quds Day gained greater prominence on account of two conflicting developments. While the Iranian regime was in a celebratory mood resulting from Hamas’ October 7 attacks against Israel, it was also mourning the April 1 strike that killed seven IRGC officers, including two generals, in the Iranian embassy’s consular annex in Damascus.

The Islamic Republic marked the first by holding a conference with its terrorist proxies two days before Quds Day, calling it “Flood of the Free,” a play on “Al-Aqsa Flood,” the name Hamas gave its October 7 attack against Israel. The Iranian regime also commemorated  Quds Day by organizing the same-day burial of the IRGC officers killed in Syria to help boost the Iranian public’s Quds Day observance, which had been waning amid widespread anti-regime protests.

The common denominator of the Islamic Republic’s Quds Day efforts, one celebratory and the other somber was the regime’s obsession with anti-Jewish hate and anti-Israel violence.

Celebrating October 7  

In the build-up to Quds Day, the Islamic Republic of Iran sponsored a conference on April 3, 2024, entitled “Flood of the Free.” The conference brought together then-Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (who died on May 19 in a helicopter crash) with notable members of the clerical regime’s “Axis of Resistance” proxy network. Among them were leaders or senior figures of U.S.-designated terrorist organizations, including Ansarallah, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Furthermore, many of the speakers were also designated individuals sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury. The Iranian regime’s conference thereby provided a space for an outpouring of threats and incitement by violent extremist entities dedicated to the destruction of Israel and actively involved in attacks against Israel, including October 7, 2023.

Celebrating the October 7 attacks and their aftermath, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said: “The historic operations carried out by Palestinians have brought the Zionist military to impotence.” He then made another one of his usual threats to deploy Tehran’s terrorist proxies against Israel: “The Zionist entity will receive its punishment at the hands of the brave men of the resistance front and will regret this crime and other crimes.”

Hassan Nasrallah, the U.S.-designated Secretary General of the Lebanese Hezbollah, also celebrated the October 7 attacks Hamas branded as “The Al-Aqsa Flood,” saying, “we hope this flood grows, increases, and strengthens over time.”

Nasrallah then praised Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), expressing “appreciation for what the resistance in Gaza has done” and thanking them for “their creativity [and] initiative.”

Senior Sunni figures from both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad gave keynote speeches at the predominantly Shia conference. Ismail Haniyeh, theU.S.-designated chairman of Hamas’s political bureau, began his speech by remembering and praising Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini in terms unusual for a Sunni Islamist leader. Haniyeh said:

First, we remember on this great day Imam Khomeini, may Allah have mercy on him. […] He called for Jerusalem Day so that the nation rises to its duty and unifies its forces to liberate Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa from the clutches of the usurping Zionist occupation.

He also praised Iran’s “Axis of Resistance” and affirmed Hamas’ role within it:

[T]his blessed battle has united the ranks of the nation’s children, and the greatest scene of this unity has been manifested in the arenas and fronts from Palestine to Lebanon, Yemen, and Iraq, with the support and backing of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Like other speakers at the Flood of the Free conference, Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi, the U.S.-designated leader of Yemen’s Ansarallah, also known as the Houthis, glorified October 7 attacks:

We send […] a salute of honor, appreciation, and reverence, [to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad] and I say to my mujahideen brothers who [greeted us] while sniping [at] the Israeli enemy and striking it, may Allah […] accept your hands that press on the trigger in jihad for the sake of Allah and as retribution against His enemies.

Promising to continue attacks in the Red Sea, Al-Houthi said:

Our people and our country […] will spare no effort in supporting [Hamas], […] waging the battle of the promised conquest and the sacred jihad, and confronting the American and British aggression, targeting the Israeli enemy, preventing it from crossing and navigating in the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, reaching the Indian Ocean.

The “Flood of the Free” conference was a clear expression of the leading role played by the Islamic Republic of Iran in supporting regional terrorism against Israel. It is notable that a common desire for the destruction of Israel spurred the attendance of Sunni extremists like Ismail Haniyeh at an event so closely related to the religious and ideological legacy of the Shia cleric Ayatollah Khomeini.

Mourning the Damascus Strike

The fact that this year’s Quds Day came four days after the April 1 strike that killed seven IRGC officers in Damascus, including General Mohammad Reza Zahedi—a member of Hezbollah’s Shura Council, resulted in a more somber mood. For the Iranian regime, holding the burial ceremonies of the IRGC officers on Quds Day provided an opportunity to boost public participation in the event and reverse the public apathy that led to indifference and low turnout in earlier years.

A prime example of regime officials who went out of their way to exult the importance of Quds Day was Ayatollah Hosseini Khorasani, a member of the Islamic Republic’s Guardian Council. A day before the Quds Day, Khorasaniemphasized the importance of attending the march: “Quds Day is based on the orders of Islam, the will of Imam Ali, the memory of Imam [Khomeini], and the far-sighted thoughts of our dear leader [Khamenei] and the demand of all freedom seeking people.”

Iranian regime officials claimed that the number of nationwide participants in this year’s Quds Day rally increased by 50 percent and, in some cases, by as much as 100 percent compared to last year. Although it is difficult to check these claims, especially since the Islamic Republic has a record of fabricating numbers over the years, photos from regime outlets indicate that the number of participants was similar to last year.

Nevertheless, Iranian regime officials tried to put on a brave face while hurling their usual threats against the State of Israel. During the march, Iranian President Raisi stated:

Those who are marching today are those who in previous days recited the Quran and today are declaring their hatred towards the Zionist regime. We are positive that these heartfelt feelings and chants will cause the destruction of the Zionist regime and will glorify the dignity of Palestinians and the Muslims of the world.

This message was also echoed by Abbas Ali Khadkhodayee, a member of the Guardian Council. On Quds Day, he stated: “God willing, with the efforts of all Muslims we will see the day when global Zionism is eliminated from today’s arena.”

Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Khatami, who is a deputy of the Guardian Council, went further. Speaking from Qom, he said: “We will support the people of Gaza until the destruction of the Zionist regime.”

Meanwhile, to cover up the regime’s concerns regarding its lack of support from the Iranian youth, Iranian President Raisi added:

We can see today that the generation which is present on the streets is the generation that was not around during the early days of the revolution, nor saw Imam Khomeini. But they are present today to condemn 75 years of the Zionist regime and its crimes. God willing, certain victory will belong to Palestinians and Muslims.

In reality, many Iranians, including the youth, do not care about the regime’s hostile policies toward Israel; some vocally oppose them. This is not surprising since Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s forever war against Israel has brought Iran nothing but diplomatic isolation and sanctions at great economic cost to the people of Iran. As the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to be the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, antisemitism, and Holocaust denial, the regime’s isolation deepens, leading to additional waves of coordinated sanctions by members of the transatlantic alliance.

The Iranian people’s reaction to the regime’s wasting of Iran’s resources on terrorist proxies and foreign adventurism was best epitomized by the comments of an Iranian who stated, “People here are hungry, but they [regime supporters] are crying for Gaza,” while filming the Quds Day march. “Quds Day is a propaganda show by the Islamic Republic of Iran in order to divert attention from its own failures,” said another Iranian citizen in a recorded message broadcasted on opposition TV station Iran International.