Israeli intelligence officials believe Hamas and Iran have come to an agreement for the Gaza-based terror group to open a war front against Israel from the southern coastal Strip in the event of conflict breaking out with Iran’s allies on the Jewish state’s northern border, according to a report Wednesday.
The Haaretz daily quoted a senior security official as saying the intelligence establishment estimates Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group will try to force Israel to move forces and air defense systems to the south at the expense of troops fighting in the north.
The report says that Israeli intelligence sources believe Iran has increased its involvement in the Strip in order to turn Hamas into its operational arm against Israel.
Iran is a backer of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, and the al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad’s military branch.
According to the unnamed officials, Iran and Hamas have been in contact over the issue for several months and the Gaza-based group has held talks with members of Tehran’s Revolutionary Guards.
Visiting Tehran earlier this month, Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri said that Hamas and Iran stand on “the same path” in fighting Israel, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported at the time.
Arouri made the comment during a meeting with Kamal Kharazi, the head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, the Fars report stated.
“We are on the same path as the Islamic Republic — the path of battling the Zionist entity and the arrogant ones,” he said, according to the report.
Arouri visited Iran with several other high-ranking Hamas officials, including Moussa Abu Marzouk, Maher Salah, Husam Badran, Osama Hamdan, Ezzat al-Rishq and Ismail Radwan.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh told a group of Turkish journalists at the time that he hoped the delegation’s visit would achieve “important results.”
رئيس المجلس السياسي للعلاقات الاستراتيجية في إيران كمال خرازي خلال استقباله نائب رئيس المكتب السياسي لحماس صالح العاروري: استمرار المقاومة هي الضمانة لتحقيق النصر على كيان الاحتلال الصهيوني pic.twitter.com/6lmFDw3naF
— وكالة شهاب للأنباء (@ShehabAgency) July 21, 2019
Arouri, who was elected as Hamas’s deputy chief in October 2017, has traveled to Iran at least five times over the past two years. He has frequently heaped praised on Iran.
“Iran is the only country that says that entity is carcinogenic and should be uprooted from the region,” he told the pro-Hamas Al-Quds TV in February 2018. “It is the only country that is prepared to provide real and public support to the Palestinian resistance and others to confront the entity.”