Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal met with Saudi king Salman bin Abdulaziz and other top officials Friday in Riyadh, in the first visit of its kind in over three years.
Mashaal was joined by a delegation of officials from the Palestinian terror group. A Hamas source told Reuters “the delegation discussed Palestinian unity and the political situation in the region. This meeting will hopefully develop relations between Hamas and Saudi Arabia.”
According to Israel Radio the meeting was held as part of Riyadh’s efforts to help reconcile Hamas and Egypt as well as improve its regional influence in the face of Iranian expansionism.
The Hamas delegation included top members of the group’s exiled politburo, such as Moussa Abu Marzouk and Saleh al-Aarori, who Israel maintains are responsible for building the terrorist organization’s military infrastructure in the West Bank, Ynet reported.
The meetings came days after a landmark nuclear accord was signed between world powers and Iran, which is considered to be Saudi Arabia’s number-one rival in the region and, separately, has supported Hamas over the years.
More recently, there has been a falling out between Tehran and Hamas over the latter’s refusal to support embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, a key ally of Iran.
Mashaal is an avid supporter of Saudi Arabia, and Hamas has officially expressed its approval of the monarchy’s fight against Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen.
But despite Mashaal’s stance, top officials in Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, have recently been courting Iran in hopes that the Islamic Republic will provide substantial financial aid in order to rebuild the group’s armed forces in the Strip.
In April, the Egyptian Al-Youm al-Saba’a newspaper reported that Saudi Arabian authorities had arrested a high-ranking Hamas official who served as the Gaza-based group’s financial branch outside of the Strip.
The report further said that Maher Salah had been apprehended in the Gulf state several months ago on suspicion that he laundered money and illegally smuggled funds across the Saudi Arabian border. The Egyptian newspaper added that Hamas member Mohammed Nazzal has since been appointed financial chairman in Salah’s stead.