A senior Hamas official said Saturday that a delegation headed by the group’s leader Ismail Haniyeh would visit Iran in the near future as the terror group struggles with a possible loss of its main source of international support
According to the official, Osama Hamdan, the delegation will visit several other countries as well, though he did not provide details, the Hebrew language Walla news site reported.
Hamadan’s statement on Iran came as Qatar, one of the few foreign backers of Hamas, faces massive pressure from its Gulf neighbors to cut ties with the Islamic terror group. If it does, the result could be disastrous for Hamas-ruled Gaza.
Qatar has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in roads, housing and a major hospital in the tiny territory. Its infrastructure projects are one of the few job-creators in a beleaguered economy.
A Hamas source told Israel Radio on Saturday that the organization’s leadership was also concerned the Qatari diplomatic crisis would harm recent efforts at reconciliation between the organization and the Egyptian government.
The two had been at loggerheads over Hamas support from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, who were deposed from power by the military.
Gaza already suffers from an Israeli-Egyptian blockade — imposed to prevent the group from importing weaponry — economic misery and chronic electricity shortages. For Hamas, Qatar’s money pumping into the economy is a vital lifeline bolstering its rule.
Closer ties between Hamas and Iran are hardly likely to mollify the Gulf states and Egypt. One of the main factors driving the crisis is Qatar’s close ties to Tehran and fears of expanding Iranian influence further destabilizing the region.
Hamas expressed shock on Wednesday over Saudi Arabia’s demand that Qatar end its support.
Saudi Arabia and its allies cut off ties with Qatar on Monday after accusing the gas-rich state of supporting extremism across the region.
On Tuesday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said that to rebuild relations, Doha must cut its support for “extremist” groups, including Hamas.
He said Qatar-supported Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, “undermines the Palestinian Authority.”
In a statement on its website, Hamas said the party felt “deep regret and disapproval” at the Saudi statement.
“These statements are a shock to our Palestinian people and to our Arab and Islamic nation, which considers the Palestinian cause its central cause,” the statement said.
The Islamist terror group seized Gaza in a near civil war with forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007. The two factions have been at loggerheads ever since.
Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, tunneling under the border and firing thousands of rockets into Israel, and is avowedly committed to destroying the Jewish state. Israel maintains a security blockade on Gaza, designed to prevent the terror group from importing weapons.