Hamas leader talks ‘resistance’ with Hezbollah chief in Beirut

Hamas leader talks ‘resistance’ with Hezbollah chief in Beirut

Nasrallah and Arouri reportedly discuss lethal tunnel detonation by IDF and intra-Palestinian reconciliation

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Hamas’s deputy political chief Saleh al-Arouri (left) holds a rare meeting with head of the Lebanese terror group leader Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut, Lebanon October 31, 2017. (Screenshot from PalInfo website)
Hamas’s deputy political chief Saleh al-Arouri (left) holds a rare meeting with head of the Lebanese terror group leader Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut, Lebanon October 31, 2017. (Screenshot from PalInfo website)

Hamas’s deputy political chief Saleh al-Arouri on Tuesday held a rare public meeting with Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut, the leader of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, during which the two discussed Israel’s recent destruction of an attack tunnel dug from Gaza into Israel and the Palestinian reconciliation process, Hamas media reported.

The IDF on Monday said it “neutralized a terror tunnel” that was discovered inside Israeli territory near the Gaza Strip and is believed to have been dug after 2014. The tunnel was being built by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror group.

The blast killed at least five members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s military wing, including a senior commander and his deputy, and two members of Hamas’s military wing died in rescue efforts. At least 12 others were injured, Gaza’s health ministry said.

According to a report by the Hamas media affiliate PalInfo, Nasrallah sent his condolences to the “martyrs,” and “stressed cohesion and solidarity in the face of Zionist attacks.”

The news site published an image from the meeting.

“The two leaders stressed the importance of a coming together between the two resistance movements” the report added.

Khaled al-Batsh, a senior PIJ official in Gaza, said Tuesday that the attack tunnel stretching from Gaza into Israeli territory that was blown up by the IDF had been built by his group for the purpose of kidnapping Israeli soldiers.

During the meeting, Nasrallah also called the leader of PIJ, Ramadan Abdullah Shalah, to discuss the lethal tunnel detonation.

Nasrallah told Shalah that Hezbollah stands with Palestinian “resistance” groups in a battle of “one fate, one cause.”

Both Arouri and Shalah live in Beirut and are close to Iran, the sponsor of Hezbollah.

Arouri led a Hamas delegation to Iran last month, which met senior Iranian officials, including international affairs adviser Ali Akbar Velayati, Admiral Ali Shamkhani, Iran’s secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Hamas operative Saleh al-Arouri (2nd-R) meets with Iranian official Hossein Amir Abdollahian (R) and other Hamas operatives in Lebanon on August 1, 2017. (Courtesy)

During those meetings, the Iranian officials pledged to increase their military support for the Gaza-based terror group.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman charged in August that Arouri has been planning, along with two other activists, terror attacks against Israel from Lebanon.

During a meeting with visiting American UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Liberman alleged that Arouri has also been attempting “to boost the relationship between Hamas and Hezbollah… under an Iranian umbrella, and with the assistance of the Revolutionary Guards and [its leader] Qassem Soleimani,” according to a statement from the Defense Ministry.

Arouri and Nasrallah on Tuesday, according to the PalInfo report, also discussed the the ongoing Palestinian reconciliation process between rival factions Hamas and Fatah, the latter of which controls the Palestinian Authority.

Hamas handed control of the Gaza Strip’s border crossings with Egypt and Israel to the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday, in a key test of the accord it signed with Fatah last month.

Under the Egyptian-brokered deal, the Palestinian Authority is due to take full civilian control of Gaza by December 1.

The fate of the Hamas security forces after it transfers power to the PA remains one of the most delicate stumbling blocks facing the reconciliation process.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas wants the handover to be comprehensive and include all security institutions, but Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, has said “no one” can force his group to disarm.

Israel and the United States have meanwhile said that Hamas, an Islamist terrorist organization that seeks to destroy Israel, must disarm as part of any unity government.

They have also demanded that the group recognize Israel.

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