News / Middle East

    Iranian Officials say More Aid and Parliamentary Group Heading to Gaza

    Iranian students chant slogans while holding a picture of Israeli President Shimon Peres upside down during a demonstration outside a UN building in Tehran to protest against a deadly Israeli raid in international waters on a Gaza-bound aid ship  (File Ph
    Iranian students chant slogans while holding a picture of Israeli President Shimon Peres upside down during a demonstration outside a UN building in Tehran to protest against a deadly Israeli raid in international waters on a Gaza-bound aid ship (File Ph

    The head of Iran's Palestinian aid society says it is sending several aid convoys to Gaza in the coming days.

    Iran says it is sending more aid convoys to Gaza, along with an official parliamentary delegation. It is not immediately clear if Tehran intends to go through with its pledge.

    An Iranian Red Crescent official vowed last week to send two ships, carrying humanitarian aid as well as an operating theater, to Gaza. Unconfirmed reports say one of the aid ships left Sunday for Gaza.

    The head of Iran's Palestine Aid Society, Mohammed Ali Nourani, is promising more aid for Gaza.

    He says next week there will be an aid convoy from Tehran to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and then set sail to Gaza. He adds that immediately after that, there will be another Iranian aid convoy that will head overland to Istanbul and head by sea to Gaza.

    Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told journalists some Iranian members of parliament would also visit Gaza, separately, to show support for the Palestinian people:

    He says that the honorable representatives of Iran's parliament will go to Gaza for humanitarian purposes and in order to send a message about what he called the oppression of the people of Gaza and of Palestine.

    An Iranian parliament member indicated Sunday the delegation had been cut to three people and Egypt had agreed to grant them visas. But Egypt has not confirmed that it will allow the visit.

    Iran analyst Ali Nourizadeh of the London-based Center for Arab and Iranian Studies says Tehran is just engaging in empty rhetoric, since it knows that neither Israel nor Egypt will allow its aid ships or its parliament members to reach Gaza:

    "I think the whole matter is just a propaganda game," he said. "Iran knows that the Israelis would not allow them to get close to Israeli territory and even the Egyptians would not welcome them, and that the Iranian parliamentarians have to obtain visas to go to Egypt and I do not think the Egyptians would welcome such a delegation. Iran lost the propaganda game to Turkey and they just want to say that they are there."

    Meir Javedanfar of the MEEPAS Center in Tel Aviv says Iran will not win many kudos from Arabs or Palestinians, since Turkey is much more popular in the Arab world than Iran:

    "If the Iranian parliamentarians are given access and they do go to Gaza, it Is going to create competition between Iran and Turkey in Gaza in terms of who is going to capture more support there," said Javedanfar. "And I think in the long term it could come at the expense of Hamas' standing because Turkey is a party which is accepted and supported by the entire Arab world, Sunni and Shia, whereas Iran is only supported by some Shia countries. It is not very popular with Sunni countries."

    It is not clear if and when Iran's first aid ship will reach the Suez Canal, nor if Egypt will allow it to go through the strategic waterway. Initial claims that Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessels would accompany the ship have been denied by a top Guard commander.

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