Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disclosed to Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas that the drone Israel shot down on May 18 was an Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle with explosives. The drone was shot down near the Jordanian border in northern Israel.

Netanyahu described Iran’s active role in the Israel-Hamas conflict in a dialogue with Maas. He stated that “Iran not only supports completely the Islamic Jihad in Gaza and gives them all their finances, they also give weapons to Hamas and Hezbollah.” He added that Iran provides “the infrastructure on which terrorist organizations depend.”

The Iranian drone attack took place in the backdrop of two weeks of methodical strikes by Israel in response to a barrage of nearly 4,000 rockets fired at civilian areas in the Jewish state since May 10.

Israel and Egypt have long imposed a blockade on Gaza to try to prevent terror factions from smuggling arms into the coastal enclave. Tehran has been able to function despite the blockade in a similar pattern it has mastered across the Middle East.

There is a direct link between Iran and the missile arsenals in Gaza. The Middle East Media Research Institute published a series of videos since the onset of the conflict showcasing members of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) bragging about the level of Iranian assistance they receive. In a May 7 interview, a senior PIJ official declared that “rockets used by the faction to target Tel Aviv bear the signature of Iran.” He added that members of Hamas and the PIJ are trained by Iranian experts and that Iranian money funds their weapons arsenal.

Leaders of Hamas and the PIJ are on record stating that the missiles that are currently being used to attack Israel were provided by Iran. Despite this knowledge, nuclear negotiations with Iran are continuing to progress in Vienna. Chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi speculated on May 20 that a new deal could be achieved within the next month.

A group of more than 40 Republican senators petitioned the White House on May 12 to halt negotiations with Iran, arguing that any sanctions relief may enable Tehran to allocate even more funds to terror groups in Gaza that continue to attack Israel. The Biden administration should reconsider upcoming discussions knowing the direct relationship with Hamas and world terror. 

Maya Carlin is an analyst at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C. She is also an M.A. candidate in Counter-Terrorism and Homeland Security at IDC Herzliya’s Lauder School of Government in Israel.

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