April 13, 2023 | Policy Brief

All Eyes on the Iranian Regime as ‘Quds Day’ Dawns in the Middle East

April 13, 2023 | Policy Brief

All Eyes on the Iranian Regime as ‘Quds Day’ Dawns in the Middle East

Israel has deployed thousands of officers in Jerusalem and in the vicinity of the Temple Mount and the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound ahead of this Friday’s “Quds Day,” a yearly event manufactured by the Islamic Republic of Iran to protest Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem and to whip up coordinated anti-Israel incitement against Israel across the Muslim world. Israelis are concerned that agitators will respond to calls by Hamas and its patron in Tehran to carry out violence in Jerusalem, potentially spilling over across the rest of Israel and the region.

Yesterday, Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ziyad al-Nakhleh traveled to Baghdad at the “invitation of the Iraqi government” to meet with high-level Iraqi officials and deliver a speech at a Quds Day march. According to reports, the parties discussed support for the Palestinian cause. While in Iraq, Nakhleh also met with Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Mohammad Kazem al-Sadegh, to discuss the “Palestine issue.”

In Iran, hundreds of marches and events have been planned across the country to commemorate Quds Day. Keynote speakers include Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who proclaimed that the “unity of the Islamic ummah” (community) will lead to the destruction of the Zionist regime. Another speaker, Hossein Salami, commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), declared that the Quds Force — the IRGC’s expeditionary arm, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers — was established “with the aim of pressuring the Zionist regime” and achieving its ultimate “elimination.”

The regime in Iran is even pressuring its small Jewish community to forgo Passover celebrations to join in events scheduled to take place in the country.

Tehran is also exporting virulent anti-Israel sentiment to Middle East territories where Iran enjoys significant leverage. This includes Syria, where a number of Iran-allied Palestinian factions have mounted efforts to attack Israel in recent years. There is also Quds Day activity in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Iran-backed terrorist group Hamas. In Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, has called for wide participation in Quds Day activities across Lebanon. He further declared that Palestinian men, women, and children form the front line to defend Jerusalem’s holy sites.

This Quds Day comes amid soaring tensions in Jerusalem, which is holy to all three major monotheistic faiths. Confrontations between Israeli security forces and Palestinian youths rocked the city last week after the latter barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque, widely viewed as the third-holiest mosque in Islam. When Israeli forces attempted the enter the mosque, the Palestinian youths shot fireworks at them.

In response to the tensions at Al-Aqsa last week, Palestinian terror organizations based in Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza fired rockets at Israel, to which Israel responded with aerial strikes. Israel blamed Iran-backed Hamas for rocket fire out of both Gaza and Lebanon. The unrest was widely viewed as part of a broader Iranian strategy to deploy its proxies to attack Israel on multiple fronts.

In an attempt to lessen tensions, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the decision earlier this week to ban non-Muslims — Jews, in particular — from visiting the Temple Mount during the last 10 days of Ramadan. Reports suggest that Netanyahu’s decision may have been made based on intelligence indicating that unrest on the Temple Mount could have led to Arab-Israeli violence in Israel’s so-called mixed cities, such as Lod and Ramle, which were the scenes of riots during the 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in 2021.

Israeli authorities are bracing for violence in Jerusalem but are also watching the other fronts where proxies of the Iranian regime have attacked in recent days. The question of whether war will visit the Middle East during this holy month of Ramadan may be answered on Friday.

Enia Krivine is senior director of the Israel Program and the National Security Network at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). For more analysis from Enia and the Israel Program, please subscribe HERE. Follow Enia on Twitter @EKrivine. Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focused on national security and foreign policy.


Hezbollah Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Lebanon Palestinian Politics Syria