Hamas Politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh agreed to attend the International Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran, which is slated to take place this weekend, but Egypt is unlikely to permit him to exit the Gaza Strip to travel to it, an Iranian cleric has said.
Haniyeh has not visited Iran since he became Hamas Politburo chief in May 2017.
“Ismail Haniyeh agreed to participate in the conference, but it is unlikely Egypt will permit him to travel to Iran,” Mohsen Araki, a cleric who serves in the Iranian Assembly of Experts, recently said, according to Iran’s Al-Alam TV. “If he is not able to travel, it is possible he will participate in the conference via video conference.”
A senior Hamas official did not respond to a request for comment.
Officials from the Gaza-based Hamas terrorist group require permission from Egypt to exit the Strip through the Rafah crossing.
Israel does not allow Hamas officials to leave Gaza through the Erez crossing, the sole pedestrian passageway between the its territory and the coastal enclave.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Syrian Grand Mufti Ahmed Badr al-Din Hassoun, former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and others will address the gathering in Tehran, according to the conference’s official website.
“The aim of the Unity Conference is to lay the ground for unity and solidarity in the Islamic World and unison among scholars in order to achieve proximity among their scientific and cultural viewpoints in terms of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), Usul (principles of jurisprudence), Kaläm (Islamic theology), and interpretation; another objective of the Conference is to examine the Muslims’ problems, provide appropriate solutions to them, and take a joint stance against them,” the conference’s website says.
Iran is believed to be a major backer of Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
In the past year and a half, top Hamas officials have visited Iran at least four times.
In October 2017, a high-level Hamas delegation spent several days in Tehran and met top Iranian officials including Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In December 2017, Hamas Deputy Politburo chief Saleh al-Arouri praised Iran for its hardline rhetoric against Israel and its support of Palestinian terrorist groups.
“Iran is the only country that says that entity is carcinogenic and should be uprooted from the region,” he told the Hamas-linked Al-Quds TV, referring to Israel in with a pejorative term. “And it is the only country that is prepared to provide real and public support to the Palestinian resistance and others to confront the entity.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.