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January 1, 2019 11:24 am

Hamas Claims Foreign Policy Independence from Iran After Tehran Visit

avatar by Steven Emerson

Opinion

A Hamas military drill in the Gaza Strip in March 2018. Photo: Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa.

Although it relies on money from Iran and Qatar to survive, a Hamas spokesperson recently claimed that Hamas’ leadership is independent and will not be expected to return political favors to external patrons, reports the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.

For example, Iran will not pressure Hamas to normalize ties with the Assad regime, spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said. His comments signal the terrorist group’s growing confidence, despite its increasing reliance on state patrons.

A Hamas delegation led by senior official Mahmoud al-Zahar met with top Iranian regime figures on December 23 to discuss strengthening coordination. During Hamas’ visit, Iran’s parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani railed against the “Zionist regime” and the Ayatollah’s senior adviser, Ali-Akbar Velyati, said the only way to confront Israel is through “resistance.”

Israel’s enemies often use the vague term “resistance” to justify violence and terrorism against Israelis. According to the Meir Amit report, Velyati “called on the Palestinians to continue resisting until their final victory” — the destruction of the Jewish state.

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Ties between Hamas and Iran have grown rapidly over the past couple of years. Hamas initially opposed the Assad regime following the onset of Syria’s civil war, leading Iran to virtually sever ties to the terrorist organization. Iran reduced financial assistance for Hamas, cutting aid by $23 million a month in 2013. But since Assad started to gain the upper hand in the conflict, Iran and Hamas — and even Hezbollah — have restored their close cooperation.

“[Hamas’] relations with Iran and Hezbollah have returned to their natural path and we intend to develop these relations,” Al-Zahar said last year in an interview on Al-Quds TV, Israel Hayom reported.

A year ago, Hamas deputy political chief Salah Al-Arouri, a co-founder of the Hamas terrorist arm called the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades, boasted about Hamas’ ties with Iran and Hezbollah, and formally credited the Islamic Republic with arming Palestinian terrorist groups.

“Who supports the resistance in Gaza and Palestine? Iran. It is Iran and Hezbollah that confront that entity [Israel] along with us,” said Al-Arouri in a December 2017 interview on Al-Quds TV, reported by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

Al-Arouri admitted that “the aid Iran provides to the resistance is not merely symbolic” and “nobody but Iran gives us [Palestinian terrorist groups] any military support.”

Steven Emerson is considered one of the leading authorities on Islamic extremist networks, financing, and operations. He serves as the Executive Director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism, a non-profit organization that serves one of the world’s largest storehouses of archival data and intelligence on Islamic and Middle Eastern terrorist groups.

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