Saleh al-Arouri, deputy head of Hamas' political bureau, interviewed by al-Quds TV (al-Quds satellite TV channel on YouTube, December 30, 2017).
Hezbollah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah interviewed by the Lebanese TV station al-Mayadeen (al-Mayadeen YouTube channel, January 3, 2018).
Members of the delegation meet with Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister.
- In recent months there has been a rapprochement between Iran and Hamas, after approximately three years of difficulties caused by Hamas’ reservations regarding the Syrian regime and the removal of the movement’s offices from Syria. The rapprochement has been manifested by an increasing number of visits by Hamas delegations to Iran and by public statements from senior Hamas figures about the importance of the military support Iran provides to Hamas (See Appendices A and B).
Areas of Iranian support
- Iran had identified Hamas and the PIJ as two important factors in the Palestinian arena which it can use to promote its regional objectives. Providing the terrorist organizations with rockets and missiles also helps deter Israel by creating threats along Israel’s northern border (Lebanon, and in the future possibly Syria as well) and southern border (the Gaza Strip).
- Iranian military support for Hamas and the PIJ has continued, with ups and downs, for the past decade, and it is reasonable to assume that in view of recent developments, it may be manifested in four areas:
- Supplies of advanced weapons (including rockets threatening central and southern Israel).
- Transfer of funds for the construction the organizations’ military infrastructures and to continue maintaining their military forces.
- Transfer of technological know-how for the development and manufacture of weapons (including rockets).
- Training operatives (who leave the Gaza Strip for training) by the IRGC’s Qods Force.
Reasons for the rapprochement
- What is behind the Hamas-Iran rapprochement? Why has Iranian support for the Palestinian terrorist organizations received so much (and such exceptional) media exposure recently? In ITIC assessment there are several possible reasons:
- The sense of victory felt by Iran, Qassem Soleimani and the Qods Force in the era after the fall of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Apparently, Iran now thinks the time is ripe to devote more attention to the Palestinian arena. Thus Iran will make an effort to improve the military capabilities of Hamas and the PIJ and help them increase their terrorist activities against Israel. Hezbollah in Lebanon can be expected to follow the same policy.
- The declaration of Donald Trump of America’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (December 6, 2017) provided Iran with another opportunity to emphasize its support for the Palestinians and to join Hamas in encouraging a new intifada against Israel in Judea and Samaria. Following Trump’s declaration, Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force, spoke to senior figures in the military-terrorist wings of both Hamas and the PIJ and expressed Iran’s readiness to support them in every way possible (Tasnim, December 11, 2017; Fars, December 25, 2017).
- Change of leadership in Hamas: It is possible that the increase of the influence of the military-terrorist wing following the recent elections to Hamas’ political bureau, especially the election of Yahya al-Sinwar to head the bureau in the Gaza Strip, also contributed to the rapprochement with Iran. Yahya al-Sinwar and other military wing operatives are well aware of Hamas’ pressing need for Iranian military support, especially recently, in view of the growing tension between Hamas and Israel in the wake of sporadic rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. The public statements about Iranian military support for Hamas are liable to indicate that the current Hamas leadership is prepared to publicly expose the military support from Iran. It may do so even at the expense of its relations with Egypt (which are very important to Hamas) and of causing ripples in the internal Palestinian reconciliation process.