The leader of the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip has boasted about the large amounts of cash, equipment and expertise it has received from Iran and said the organization is in touch with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group in Lebanon “on an almost daily basis.”
Speaking to Lebanon’s pro-Hezbollah al-Mayadeen TV channel on Monday, Yahya Sinwar also lauded the “strong, powerful and warm” ties Hamas enjoys with Qassem Soleimani, who heads the Islamic Revolutionary Guards’s Quds Force tasked with operations outside of Iran.
Soleimani is assumed to have masterminded the firing from Syria of dozens of rockets at Israeli military positions on the Golan Heights earlier this month.
Four of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, while the rest fell short of the border and landed in Syria. In response to the attack, Israel conducted dozens of raids against Iranian targets in Syria, hitting approximately 50 positions.
In excerpts from the interview, translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute, Sinwar claimed that Hamas had “greatly developed its capabilities” thanks to friends, “first and foremost the Islamic Republic of Iran,” which was giving “a lot of money, equipment and expertise” to the group’s military arm, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, as well as to other factions in the coastal enclave.
“We have excellent relations with our brothers in Hezbollah,” he went on. “Our relations with them are extremely developed. We work together and coordinate and are in touch on an almost daily basis. The relations are at the best stage ever.”
“Similarly, our ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran, with brother Qassem Soleimani and the other brothers in the IRGC leadership, are very strong, powerful and warm.”
Asked by the interviewer whether Hamas would provide Israel with “unprecedented surprises” if it attacked the Strip, Sinwar said, “Absolutely.”
Israel, which has fought three wars against Hamas, has imposed a blockade on Gaza since the group seized the territory from the internationally backed Palestinian Authority in a bloody coup in 2007. It says the blockade is in place in order to prevent weapons and other military equipment from entering the Strip.
Critics point to worsening humanitarian conditions in Gaza and say the blockade amounts to collective punishment of the two million Palestinians living there. There have been many reports that Gaza is “on the verge of collapsing,” and could plunge into a new round of fighting with Israel if conditions do not improve.
Under the banner of “March of Return,” more than 100 Palestinians have been killed in mass violent clashes with Israeli security forces along the border fence since March 30 — more than 50 of them members of Hamas, according to the terror group itself.
Israel says the demonstrations, originally claimed to be nonviolent, are being orchestrated by Hamas as cover for attempted attacks and breaches of the border fence.
Hamas has promised Gazans that they will “return” to homes in what is now Israeli territory. The Palestinians claim that tens of thousands of original refugees, displaced at the time of Israel’s creation in 1948, and their millions of descendants, have a “right of return.”
Israel will not agree to such a “return,” which would see a Palestinian majority outnumbering Jews and effectively bringing an end to the Jewish state.