Senior members of the Palestinian terror group Hamas and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah met with officials from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps for an iftar meal [breaking of the Ramadan fast] in Beirut this week, according to Palestinian media reports.
The unusual rendezvous was not looked upon favorably by some in Hamas, given Iran’s (and Hezbollah’s) role in Syria, where Palestinians find themselves on the opposite side of the civil war.
The head of Hamas’s political bureau, Khaled Mashaal, was based in Damascus for years until the Syrian civil war broke out in March 2011, placing the Sunni Hamas in an awkward position. After he failed to publicly support the Shiite-aligned regime of Bashar Assad — irking Iran — he left the Syrian capital for Doha, Qatar.
According to Palestinian media reports, the dinner infuriated lower-level Hamas members who took to social media to express their opposition to the meeting. Angry messages were also sent to Mashaal, according to the reports, while the group’s leadership in Gaza and the West Bank refrained from addressing the issue.
Hamas’s military wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, on the other hand, expressed its approval for the perceived rapprochement between Hamas and Iran, as its interest in getting reacquainted with Tehran for funding purposes has grown.
Earlier this week, The Times of Israel reported that Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy to Mashaal, traveled to Beirut in secret to meet with Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah in a bid to strengthen ties between the two terror groups.
The two were expected to discuss Hamas’s reported backchannel talks with Israel over a long-term ceasefire.
Shiite Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy fighting alongside the Assad regime in Syria while Hamas is a Sunni outgrowth of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood that supports Sunni jihadist rebels in Syria. Yet while the two groups do not see eye-to-eye on the Sunni-Shiite conflict roiling the region, they have a long history of cooperation when it comes to the shared enemy Israel.
In 2006, as conflict in Gaza escalated after Hamas’s cross-border kidnapping of IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit, Hezbollah came to Hamas’s aid by launching its own raid on IDF forces on Israel’s northern border, sparking the Second Lebanon War.
In the years since Hamas’s 2007 takeover of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority, the group has grown closer to Hezbollah’s patron Iran, which has proved more willing than Arab states to supply the organization with funds and weapons for its conflict with Israel.
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