Hamas announces 'new page of cooperation' with Iran

Hamas announces 'new page of cooperation' with Iran
Following contradictory reports of Iran's negligible support to Hamas, the movement said a recent visit to Iran would "usher in a new page of cooperation".
4 min read
19 February, 2016
Prior to the Syrian revolution, Hamas had a positive relationship with Iran [Getty]
Hamas have said on Thursday that it has concluded a "successful" visit to Iran, adding that the visit would "usher in a new page of cooperation between Hamas and Iran."

In a statement, Hamas said the delegation led by political bureau members Mohammed Nasr and Osama Hamdan had concluded an eight-day visit to Iran on Wednesday.

"The visit saw a number of successful and positive meetings with Iranian officials," the statement said.

According to the statement, the delegation visited Iran with nine other Palestinian factions upon an invitation from Tehran to participate in official celebrations of the 37th anniversary of Iran's Islamic revolution. 

"We found support for the resistance in Palestine," Hamdan said.

Hamas and Iran since Syria

For years, Hamas has had strong relations with Iran, but the Palestinian group’s support for the Syrian revolution against the Iran-backed Assad regime and its resultant move to Qatar has strained relations.

Additionally, some analysts speculated that during the negotiations that lead to the nuclear deal with the US, there may have been a deal where Iran will continue their interference in Syria without too much hindrance from America, while they will decrease support to Palestinian groups.

A phone conversation was recently published by London-based daily A-Sharq al-Awsat in which senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk is heard to say: "We haven’t gotten anything from them since 2009, and everything [the Iranians] are saying is a lie."

However, Iranian officials later disputed this accusation, with the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari saying that supporting "Palestinian resistance movements" is part of Iran’s foreign policy.

There has also been some reconciliatary comments towards Iran made by certain leaders of the movement.

"Losing Iran is not something that we aspire to. For it is an important regional state and we want it to remain supportive of the Palestinian cause, and maintaining the dispute between us would be unwise," said Hamas leader Ahmed Yousef. 

"In this context, a healthy relationship requires both give and take."

Although Iran's financing to Hamas has wavered, they have continued to directly give support to al-Qassam brigades, the military wing of the group who have a separate budget from the political faction.

Leaders within Hamas and al-Qassam are known for continuing to have a good relationship with Iran, including Mohammed al-Deif, Yehya Sinwar and predominant hardliner Mahmoud Zahar.

Iran has had a more comfortable relationship with Islamic Jihad in Gaza, however following a public dispute over Iran's backing of the Houthis, Iran temporarily withdrew funding to the group.

Recently, Islamic Jihad leaders in Gaza, including Khaled al-Batsh, Mohammed al-Hindi and Nafez Azzam, have openly rejected Iran's ideological stances.

In response to Islamic Jihad’s disputes with Iran’s foreign policy, Iran allegedly established a new militant group called al-Sabireen (dubbed by some as a Palestinian Hizbollah) led by Hisham Salem and said to have around 500 operatives.

Multiple sources told The New Arab that following a campaign against Salem by members of al-Qassam and Islamic Jihad who were opposed to his religious ideology, Hamas leaders sheltered Salem, and brokered a deal in Gaza to prevent the various militant factions from clashing.

Such actions may suggest that the group is attempting to balance its relationships within Gaza whilst also remaining on good terms with Iran.

Publically, there is also a cordial relationship between Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy who is currently supporting regime forces in Syria, and Hamas; Hassan Nasrallah extending sympathies towards the group following a recent tunnel collapse that caused the death of a number of their members.

Similarly, following the assassination of Hezbollah operative Samir Kantar in Syria, Hamas issued a statement calling him a martyr.

However, the statement contrasted notably with the reaction from Hamas personnel who condemned the military figure for siding with the regime in the Syrian conflict.

Qassam has even reportedly lent overt support to the Syrian revolution, training FSA brigades around Damascus - reports denied by Hamas leaders. 

Hamas affiliate Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis in al-Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp outside Damascus had been actively fighting the regime since the start of the Syrian war.  

Yet following al-Nusra and the Islamic State's entry into the camp, in April last year the affiliate ended up fighting on the side of the regime against militants, with its injured leader Ahmad Zaghmout being treated in a regime hospital.

Multiple sources have told The New Arab that there are still Hamas affiliates from the camp fighting alongside the Free Syrian Army in opposition held areas of rural Damascus, although this is likely in an individual, rather than organizational capacity.  

As Hamas' political wing strives to sustain a working relationship with Iran – as well as Iran's Gulf rivals – and Qassam take support from the country, many of the movements affiliates are opposed to Iran's actions in Syria.

Yet as Hamas continues to face financial woes and rules over a disillusioned population in the blockaded Gaza strip, pragmatism will likely force the group to keep some form of relationship with Iran, despite ideological differences.