Leaders of the Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas, say they will not help Iran militarily in any conflict between Israel and the Islamic Republic. There is speculation in Israel that if it attacked Iran’s nuclear facilities, it could face rocket fire from Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Both are long-time allies of Iran. But Mahmoud Zahhar, a senior leader of Hamas in Gaza, denied the group would get involved and told the BBC: “We are not part of any political axis.” “If Israel attacks us we will respond. If they don’t, we will not get involved in any other regional conflict,” he added. Mr Zahhar questioned Hamas’s ability to offer support from the Palestinian territory to the south of Israel, even if it wanted to. “Don’t exaggerate our power. We are still suffering from the occupation, the siege and two wars in recent years,” he said. Israel tightened its blockade of Gaza in 2007 after Hamas seized control of the territory from forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah movement. Ideological differences Another senior Hamas official in Gaza, who did not want to be named, also insisted that Hamas would stay out of any conflict between Israel and Iran. “What could we realistically do anyway? If we were to attack Israel, the response would be much stronger,” he said. Continue reading the main story “ I don’t like the Iranians and the way they try to use their influence in the Arab world” Unnamed Hamas official Hamas has long relied on Iran for funding. It is estimated that tens of millions of dollars are transferred to Gaza every year. However, the same Hamas official suggested they were not strongly aligned in their beliefs. “Iran has been very generous with its money, but ideologically we have little in common,” he said. Although both Hamas and Iran are hostile towards Israel, which regards the Palestinian group as a terrorist organisation, Hamas supporters are Sunni Muslims while Iran has Shia Muslim majority. This makes it much closer to Hezbollah, a Shia Islamist movement which operates in southern Lebanon.
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These comments by Hamas leaders are further evidence of the split between Hamas and Iran that has occurred over the failure of Hamas to support the Al-Assad regime in Syria. An earlier post discussed the relocation of the Hamas political leadership from Syria to Qatar and Egypt. Curiously, Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh had visited Iran only three weeks ago where he praised Iran for its “unconditional support” for the Palestinians and his movement.
The Hamas charter states that it is ” is one of the wings of the Muslim Brothers in Palestine” and an early media report indicated that shortly after Hamas took over the Gaza strip, Muslim Brotherhood representatives were present to review Hamas military formations. In 2007, a Hamas journalist acknowledged the role that the “international Muslim Brotherhood” has played in providing funds for the purchase of weapons and in 2008, an Israeli TV station reported that Muslim Brotherhood “representatives” had traveled to Gaza from Egypt through the open border to meet with Hamas. Hamas is supported financially and politically by the global Muslim Brotherhood and a NEFA Foundation report has documented the Hamas fund-raising activities of the Union of Good, a coalition of Islamic charities linked to the Brotherhood that provides financial support to both the Hamas “social” infrastructure, as well as its terrorist activities. Previous posts have also discussed the worldwide campaign orchestrated by the global Brotherhood against Israeli actions in Gaza during the 2008-2009 conflict with Israel. Anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli incitement in Hamas media is commonly reported.
For an analysis of the issues currently facing Hamas by Israeli analyst Pincus Inbari, go here.