Egypt reportedly simmers over Hamas chief’s trip to Iran
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Egypt reportedly simmers over Hamas chief’s trip to Iran

Cairo said to have allowed Ismail Haniyeh to travel beyond Gaza and Egypt on condition that he not visit the Islamic Republic; sources predict move will cause a ‘major crisis’

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

In this photo, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh speaks at the funeral of Qassem Soleimani, in Tehran, Iran, January 6, 2020. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader)
In this photo, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh speaks at the funeral of Qassem Soleimani, in Tehran, Iran, January 6, 2020. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader)

Egypt is displeased with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh over his participation in a funeral for slain Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, the Arabic-language Dar al-Hayat news site reported, citing “trusted Egyptian sources.”

Haniyeh attended the Tehran funeral procession for Soleimani, who was killed in an American drone strike on Friday in Baghdad, and delivered a speech in which he called the Iranian general “the martyr of Jerusalem.”

Soleimani was the head of the elite Quds Force, the body in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard responsible for Tehran’s military campaigns and expeditions abroad.

The Hamas chief, whose home is in the Gaza Strip, had been permitted by Egyptian authorities, who along with Israel control the coastal enclave’s border crossings, to travel beyond the territory and Egypt on the condition that he not visit Iran, the Egyptian sources told Dar al-Hayat.

Ismail Haniyeh, in third row, behind Ali Khamenei, center, at a Tehran funeral for Qassem Soleimani on January 6, 2020. (Khamenei.ir)

At the beginning of December when he flew to Turkey, Haniyeh started his first trip past Gaza and Egypt since he became head of the terror group in 2017. He has thus far visited Turkey, Qatar and Iran, meeting with many of those countries’ top officials.

The Hamas leader also ignored messages from Cairo as well as other Sunni Arab-majority countries about “the necessity” of him not taking part in Soleimani’s funeral in the Iranian capital, the Egyptian sources also said.

A Hamas official in Gaza did not respond to a request for comment.

In addition to speaking at the funeral, Haniyeh met newly appointed Quds Force commander Esmail Ghaani in Tehran.

A photograph published Monday by the pro-Hezbollah, Lebanese al-Mayadeen TV station showed Haniyeh, Ghaani, Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri and other members of the terror group’s politburo standing together.

Haniyeh also visited Soleimani’s home on Monday and expressed his condolences to his family, according to Hamas’s website. A picture posted on social media platforms of the Hamas chief visiting Soleimani’s family showed that Islamic Jihad secretary-general Ziad al-Nakhalah attended as well.

Iran is widely believed to significantly support the military wings of both Hamas and Islamic Jihad with weapons and training.

Hamas has recently made significant efforts to improve its ties with Egypt, the only country sharing a border with Gaza besides Israel.

Egypt maintains close ties with several Gulf countries, which view Iran with as a top foe.

The terror group has controlled the coastal enclave since 2007 when it ousted the Fatah-dominated PA from the territory.

Palestinian women, one holding a picture of Hamas movement chief Ismail Haniyeh, attend a mass rally marking the 32nd anniversary of the founding of Hamas on December 14, 2019, in Gaza city. (AP/Khalil Hamra)

For over a year, Egypt has also played a key role in brokering various informal ceasefire understandings between Israel and Hamas.

The understandings have largely entailed Israel lifting restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza, in exchange for Hamas maintaining relative quiet in the border region between the coastal enclave and the Jewish state.

Egypt believes that Haniyeh’s visit to Iran will cause embarrassment to it with the United Arab Emirates, which asked Cairo to condition the Hamas leader’s travels beyond Egypt on him not journeying to the Islamic Republic, Tuesday’s report said.

Haniyeh has not said when or if he plans to return to Gaza.

His trip to Tehran will bring about “a major crisis” between Egypt and Hamas, the Egyptian sources predicted.

 

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