The recent clashes in and around the Temple Mount were fueled in part by the Iranian government, Palestinian sources told Israel Hayom this week.
The clashes erupted after Israeli authorities installed metal detectors at entry points to the site in response to a deadly terrorist attack there on July 14. Many Muslims locally and around the world viewed the Israeli security measure as a bid to usurp control. Israel insisted the measure was meant only to prevent further attacks, and removed the devices less than two weeks later.
According to the Palestinian sources, tens of thousands of Muslim protesters received prepackaged meals along with notes in each one citing a famous quote attributed to 1979 Iranian Revolution leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini: “With the help of Allah, Palestine will be liberated! Jerusalem is ours.” The note also depicted the Dome of the Rock and the Palestinian flag.
According to reports in the Palestinian media, a nongovernmental organization run by Iranian youth movements was in charge of distributing the meals. Arabic news sites affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps also pointed to Iranian NGOs as being behind the “supply of food to the heroes fighting for the liberation of the besieged Al-Aqsa mosque until victory is achieved over the Zionist occupier.”
Despite those reports, a senior official in the Palestinian security forces told Israel Hayom that such a large logistical effort could not have been single-handedly managed and funded by a youth movement.
“It is plainly obvious that the government in Tehran, by way of its long tentacles, was behind these efforts,” the official said. “This involves millions of shekels, and it appears that the Iranians have found a way to cash in on this and to make it clear to the Palestinians that Iran is taking care of them.”
“The leaflet was included in every prepackaged meal and made it abundantly clear where it originated,” the official says.
Another Palestinian official told Israel Hayom that the Palestinian Authority knew in advance about the Iranian involvement, but chose to withhold the information from Israel when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas decided to freeze security ties with Israel. The decision, made in the wake of the Temple Mount crisis, has since been reversed.
“This would have not taken place in areas under Palestinian control. We would have never let Iran establish such a foothold because this would have hit us like a boomerang, by prompting action from Arab states,” the official said.
“Perhaps the Iranians understood they could undertake this effort without Israeli authorities asking too many questions. We obtained intelligence of their intention to spend heavily on the meal distribution, but we received orders to stop cooperating [with Israel] and we acted accordingly.”
The Iranian influence has been met with Palestinian concern, with senior Palestinian officials in Abbas’ inner circle saying he was outraged when he found out about the Iranian intervention.
“Nothing is past the Iranians. Their tentacles are everywhere and it would be a big mistake to let them make such inroads,” a senior official in Abbas’ office said.
Iran is not the only player fanning the flames in the conflict. Israel Hayom has previously reported on Turkish-led efforts to inflame the region and on ongoing incitement by Israeli Arab clerics.