Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard (file)
Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard (file) Reuters

The chief of Iran's elite Quds Force has ridiculed calls for Hamas to be disarmed and urged the Palestinian Islamist movement in Gaza to "turn the land and skies into hell" for Israel.

Major General Qassem Suleimani's message to terrorist factions fighting Israel in the Gaza Strip while firing rockets on Israeli civilians was published late Wednesday by Iran's official IRNA news agency.  

Suleimani "underlined that confronting the Zionist enemy is a necessity and the Palestinian resistance movement will turn the land and skies into hell for the Zionists."

"Disarmament of resistance is a daydream that will only come true in the graveyard" for Israel, said the rarely-quoted senior figure.

The United States and European countries have called for a ceasefire in the devastating Gaza conflict and the disarmament of terrorist groups in the coastal strip, notably Hamas, who have fired thousands of rockets at Israeli population centers over the last decade.

The Quds Force, a branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, is highly secretive and conducts security functions abroad deemed necessary by the regime to "protect the Islamic republic", including in some cases terrorist operations. The Quds Force has been linked to several terrorist attacks and attempted attacks against Israeli diplomats and civilians abroad, most notably in Thailand, where two Iranian agents were jailed last year for plotting bomb attacks.

As its leader, Suleimani is seldom mentioned or pictured in Iranian media but he has cultivated a reputation as one of the most influential security operatives in the Middle East.

"The painful scenes in Palestine dishearten us and fills our chests with deep grief arising from deep anger," his statement added. "Martyrdom for Palestine is a dream of every noble Muslim and freedom-seeker." 

Suleimani's intervention follows a speech Tuesday by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, urging the Islamic world to arm Palestinian terrorist groups and branding Israel's actions in Gaza a "genocide."

Last week, Iran's parliament speaker Ali Larijani said his country had provided Hamas with the technology it has used to rain down rockets on Israel from Gaza.

And on Wednesday, Hamas appealed directly to Iran's main proxy in the region, Lebanon's Hezbollah, to help it fight Israel.

It comes as Israel steps up its offensive against terrorists in Gaza, chief among them the Islamist Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations, after terrorists rejected several ceasefire offers.

On Thursday morning the IDF called up an additional 16,000 reservists to participate in Operation Protective Edge, now in its 24th day, bringing the total number of reservists called up since the start of the operation to 86,000.