Hamas chief Haniyeh slated to meet Malaysian PM in bid for aid

Hamas says visit comes in the context of the terror group’s efforts ‘to gather all forms of support’ for Palestinians; Malaysian premier has come under fire for anti-Semitism

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

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh attends a meeting with foreign reporters at al-Mat'haf hotel in Gaza City, June 20, 2019. (AP Photo/ Adel Hana)
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh attends a meeting with foreign reporters at al-Mat'haf hotel in Gaza City, June 20, 2019. (AP Photo/ Adel Hana)

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Malaysia on Tuesday, where he will meet Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, according to the terror group.

Haniyeh touched down in Kuala Lumpur after visiting Iran, Oman, Turkey and Qatar over the past several weeks.

“The visit comes in the framework of the political efforts that the movement’s leadership is undertaking to gather all forms of support for the Palestinian people and confront the dangerous challenges facing the Palestinian cause,” a report on Hamas’s official website said.

The Hamas chief’s arrival in Malaysia comes after a delegation of officials in the terror group met Mahathir in the Malaysian capital in December.

In 2018, a Hamas rocket expert was killed in Malaysia, in a hit the terror group and local authorities blamed on Israel.

Mahathir has come under fire on more than one occasion for his open anti-Semitism. In June 2016, he claimed that “the Jews are ruling the world by proxy” and that “America is very much under Jewish influence.”

In September 2018, he told students at Columbia University in New York City: “Why is it that I can’t say something against the Jews, when a lot of people say nasty things about me, about Malaysia? I didn’t protest, I didn’t demonstrate.”

Haniyeh will also meet with other Malaysian officials, Hamas said.

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)

In December, Haniyeh traveled beyond the Gaza Strip and Egypt for the first time since he assumed the top Hamas post in May 2017.

Hamas has controlled Gaza since it ousted the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in 2007 from the territory.

On Tuesday, Khalil al-Hayya, the deputy Hamas chief in Gaza, admitted Haniyeh’s visit to Iran stirred up tension with Egypt, which maintains close ties to rivals of Iran such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

“Our brothers in Egypt rebuked us for visiting Iran, but [Hamas] has its own independent stance,” Hayya said, adding that Haniyeh’s visit to Tehran strengthened “the relationship between Hamas and Iran.”

At the beginning of January, Haniyeh attended the Tehran funeral procession for slain Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in an American drone strike in Baghdad.

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.

While in Iran, Haniyeh also met Esmail Ghaani, the newly appointed commander of the Quds Force.

Hayya also said that Haniyeh could remain outside Gaza for the next six months or even a year.

AFP contributed to this article.

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