Hamas chief Haniyeh makes first trip for Raisi funeral in Iran after ICC ruling

Public appearance comes days after ICC sought arrest of top Israeli and Palestinian leaders

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh at his office in Tehran in March. AP
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Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Tehran on Wednesday for the funeral of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, days after the International Criminal Court announced it was seeking his arrest for war crimes.

Top army generals, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps leaders and representatives of regional militant groups were present in the capital as Iranian leaders mourned Mr Raisi, 63, who was killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

It was Mr Haniyeh's first public appearance since the ICC announcement on Monday.

“I come in the name of the Palestinian people, in the name of the resistance factions of Gaza, to express our condolences,” he told mourners at Tehran University.

He recalled meeting Mr Raisi during Ramadan and repeated calls for support for the Palestinian cause, saying the Muslim world must “fulfil its obligations”.

The funeral ceremony was one of several planned before Mr Raisi's burial in Mashhad on Thursday.

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim, Tunisian President Kais Saied and Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani were among regional leaders in attendance.

Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani also travelled to Tehran for Mr Raisi's funeral, the Qatar News Agency reported.

Kuwait's Foreign Minister Abdullah Ali Al Yahya was attending on behalf of Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Meshal, the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry said.

Lebanon's National News Agency said a delegation including Parliament's Speaker Nabih Berri, caretaker foreign minister Abdallah Bou Habib and other officials travelled to Tehran to offer their condolences.

Representatives from China, Pakistan and other nations were expected to arrive later on Wednesday.

Mr Haniyeh had met Mr Raisi and foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, who was also killed in Sunday's crash, during several visits to Iran since the war in Gaza broke out in October. He met with Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei later on Wednesday, state media reported.

Iranian leaders vowed to continue supporting Palestinian militant groups in a meeting with the Hamas leader in March.

The war in Gaza featured in the funeral ceremonies for Mr Raisi and his entourage, with one master of ceremonies chanting “Death to Israel” in Tehran and Palestinian flags flown during the funeral procession held in Tabriz on Tuesday.

Iran-aligned militant groups are fighting Israel on three separate fronts – Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah on Lebanon's southern border with Israel and Houthis in the Red Sea, where the Yemeni rebels have attacked commercial and military ships they claim are linked to Israel.

All paid tribute to Mr Raisi, with Hamas lauding him as a “tireless” supporter of the Palestinian resistance.

Hezbollah deputy leader Naim Qassem was seen alongside Mr Haniyeh at the funeral ceremony.

The ICC's Chief Prosecutor on Monday said he would seek arrest warrants for Mr Haniyeh and fellow Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al Masri over the October 7 attack on southern Israel that triggered the Gaza war.

Karim Khan said he was also seeking a warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, arguing that Israel had used starvation as a weapon of war in Gaza and was collectively punishing Palestinians for the Hamas attack.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant may also be issued with an arrest warrant as judges convene to consider the ICC application – a decision which may take months.

Updated: May 22, 2024, 12:32 PM