The head of Hamas’s political bureau, Khaled Mashaal, is set to visit Iran next month in a bid to strengthen ties between the terror group and the Islamic Republic, Iran’s Fars news agency reported Friday.
“Mashaal will travel to Tehran in less than a month,” the it quoted Hamas official Ahmed Yousef as saying.
The move was seen as further indication that Iran was willing to overlook Hamas’s unwillingness to side with Syrian President Bashar Assad, a staunch ally of Iran, against the rebels in the Syrian civil war. Hamas had raised Iran’s ire over the issue and reports surfaced of a distancing between the two.
Mashaal was until 2013 based in Damascus.
The relationship between Hamas and Iran was “positive,” an Iranian official said in December, reportedly stressing that his organization wished to improve its ties with the Islamic Republic.
Last month, a Hamas representative in Lebanon told Palestinian news agency Wafa that Tehran has always supported the Palestinians.
“Ever since the victory of the Islamic Revolution of Iran the Palestinian crisis has been a major propriety for Iran, whose relations with the Palestinians are of strategic value for both sides,” said Ali al-Baraka
Also last month, Mahmoud a-Zahar, a senior Hamas official, asked Iran and Hezbollah to step up aid to the terror group, requesting more weapons and funding for its operations.
“We [Hamas] stretch our hand of cooperation for materializing the Palestinian cause, because Palestine is an essential issue that needs more efforts,” al-Zahar told Al-Manar television, a network affiliated with Hezbollah.
On Monday, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp’s missile division boasted that his country has provided short- and mid-range ballistic rocket technologies to its allies, including the Palestinians and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
IRGC aerospace force commander Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said that information and skills to locally produce military rockets were also given to the governments of Syria and Iraq.
“The IRGC’s Aerospace Force has developed to a stage in the field of missile industries that it can mass-produce different types of short- and mid-range missiles,” Hajizadeh said, according to a report by the semi-official FARS news agency.
Israeli defense officials have often voiced concerns over the spread of mid-range missiles to Hezbollah and the Palestinians that put all of Israel within striking distance.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has helped Iraq, Syria, Palestine and the Lebanese Hezbollah by exporting the technology that it has for the production of missiles and other equipment, and they can now stand against the Zionist regime, the ISIL [Islamic State group] and other Takfiri [apostate] groups and cripple them,” Hajizadeh said.
He also claimed that Iran was developing its own radar and drone technologies that were being exported to other countries.
In 2013 Hajizadeh made various claims as to the improved accuracy of Iranian ballistic missiles, including a supersonic anti-ship missile, the so-called Persian Gulf missile, which has a range of over 250 kilometers.
Israel has vowed to prevent what it terms “game-changing” technologies from falling into the hands of Hezbollah. Several airstrikes over the past three years, attributed to Israel and carried out amid the continuing civil war in Syria, were said to have targeted advanced weapons shipments heading to the Lebanese terror organization.
Last month a helicopter attack on a convoy near the Syrian town of Quneitra on the Golan Heights, apparently carried out by the IDF, killed six Hezbollah members and and at least one Iranian, Mohammed Ali Allahdadi, a decorated Iranian general who was reportedly advising the Syrians on their war effort.
Hezbollah, Syria and Iran have all vowed to strike at Israel in the wake of the attack, and last week a Hezbollah attack along Israel’s northern border killed two IDF soldiers. There have been conflicting reports as to whether Israel knew that Allahdadi was in the convoy hit during the airstrike.
Along Israel’s southern border, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have steadily increased the range of their rocket attacks on Israeli towns and cities. During 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, in which the IDF battled Hamas, terrorists fired over 4,000 rockets at Israel including several that reached Tel Aviv and the outskirts of Haifa in the north, and threatened air traffic at Ben Gurion international airport.
Last November Revolutionary Guard Brigadier General Sayed Majid Moussavi said that the Palestinians and Hezbollah had received Fateh-class missiles from Tehran. The Fateh-110 missile has a range of about 200 kilometers (120 miles) and can carry warheads of around 500 kilograms. Fired from southern Lebanon, the missiles could hit as far south as the Israeli city of Beersheba.