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Israeli official: Hamas a ‘slave’ to Iran, selling out Palestinians

In Facebook post, top Defense Ministry liaison with the PA plays off sectarian strife in the Arab world to call out terror group

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

Hamas then political leader Ismail Haniyeh delivers a speech in front of portraits of late Iranian revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini (left), and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (right), at a rally in Tehran, February 11, 2012. (AP/Vahid Salemi)
Hamas then political leader Ismail Haniyeh delivers a speech in front of portraits of late Iranian revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini (left), and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (right), at a rally in Tehran, February 11, 2012. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

A senior Israeli defense official on Monday ridiculed Hamas for its burgeoning ties with Iran, calling the Palestinian terror group a “slave” to the Shiite Islamic Republic and accusing it of “selling” Gaza’s Sunnis for Tehran’s support.

On Saturday a high-profile Hamas delegation visited Iran for the second time in recent weeks, in order to attend the funeral service for the father of Qassim Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force. The delegation included deputy political chief Saleh al-Arouri and a second official, Ezzat al-Rishq.

Major General Yoav Mordechai, head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Defense Ministry branch that liaises with the Palestinian Authority on civil and security affairs, invoked the politics of sectarianism to criticize the Hamas delegation’s visit to Iran on his popular Arabic-language Facebook page.

Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai in 2015 (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

“Hamas is selling the Sunni residents of Gaza in exchange for Persian money,” wrote Mordechai, playing off of the deadly intra-Muslim Sunni-Shiite conflicts raging in the Middle East. Iran is considered the region’s Shiite powerhouse, while Palestinians are almost exclusively Sunni.

Mordechai’s Facebook page, which is liked or followed by nearly half a million people, has become a powerful tool used by COGAT over the past year to disseminate bureaucratic information directly to Palestinians, such as how to apply for travel or work visas.

At the same time, the page has been used to spread IDF messaging against Hamas and sometimes the Palestinian Authority. However, the use of sectarian language is rare in such messaging.

In recent months, Hamas has publicly flaunted its burgeoning ties with Iran, and the Islamic Republic has in turn sworn to increase its military backing for the Gaza-based terror group.

Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar said Iran is already the group’s largest military backer.

“Saleh al-Arouri, an official in the Iranian conspiratorial secretive movement known as Hamas, mourned the death of Suleimani’s father,” wrote Mordechai.

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 (Twitter)

Mordechai said that the Hamas delegation was in Iran to “take orders” from the “religious jurist state,” using the term used to describe the Iranian government’s special theocratic nature.

“The terrorist Hamas does not hide the fact that it has become a duplicate of Hezbollah in Gaza, but instead is proud of it,” he added. Hezbollah is a Shiite terror group funded and guided by Iran.

On November 1, Arouri, who lives in Lebanon, held a rare public meeting with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, discussing their joint “resistance” against Israel.

Mordechai’s Facebook post was accompanied by a cartoon that depicted  Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordering his “slave” Arouri to come to him immediately.

COGAT chief Yoav Mordechai published a cartoon on his Facebook that depicts  Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordering his “slave” Saleh al-Arouri to come to him immediately.

Mordechai’s Facebook page, which is liked or followed by nearly half a million people, has become a powerful tool used by COGAT over the past year to disseminate bureaucratic information directly to Palestinians, such as how to apply for travel or work visas.

At the same time, the page has been used to spread IDF messaging against Hamas and sometimes the Palestinian Authority.

In recent weeks, since Hamas signed a power-sharing deal with the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah faction, Israel has stepped up its efforts to play up Hamas’s ties with the Islamic Republic and its resistance to laying down its weapons and recognizing Israel.

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