Senior Hamas official says Haniyeh could visit Russia next week
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Senior Hamas official says Haniyeh could visit Russia next week

Saleh al-Arouri says terror group wants to maintain its ties with Moscow ‘to strengthen our people’s rights’

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh speaks during a meeting with foreign reporters in Gaza City on June 20, 2019 (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh speaks during a meeting with foreign reporters in Gaza City on June 20, 2019 (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

A Hamas delegation led by the group’s leader, Ismail Haniyeh, will visit Moscow at the beginning of next week, the Palestinian Information Center reported on Monday, citing “a special source.”

The report came two days after Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri said that Haniyeh would visit Russia in the near future.

“Now, we actually have a visit to Russia,” Arouri told Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV on Saturday during an hour-long interview. “A visit for the brother and chairman of the movement and a delegation of the movement will possibly take place in a week.”

The delegation plans to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday, the Palestinian Information Center, a news site linked to Hamas, reported.

In December, Haniyeh traveled beyond the Gaza Strip and Egypt for the first time since assuming the top post in the terror group in May 2017.

The Hamas chief  has since visited Turkey, Iran, Malaysia, Oman and Qatar. He has still not returned to the coastal enclave or Egypt, and has spent most of his time in Qatar.

Asked about Haniyeh visiting Russia next week, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

Arouri added that Hamas was interested in “continuing its ties with [Russia] to strengthen our people’s rights and its ability to obtain them from this occupation.”

Russia has called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has expressed criticism of the US administration’s plan to resolve it, which both Hamas and the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership have vehemently rejected.

Palestinian Ambassador to Russia Abed al-Hafeez Nofal (L) and Hamas deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk hold a press conference in Moscow on January 17, 2017. (AFP PHOTO/Alexander NEMENOV)

In a policy document issued in May 2017, Hamas said it rejects “any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea,” but it also stated that it considers the establishment of a sovereign and independent Palestinian state along pre-1967 borders, with the return of refugees and their descendants to their former and ancestral homes, to “be a formula of national consensus.”

Breaking with past American administrations, the US plan envisions the creation of a Palestinian state in about 70 percent of the West Bank, a small handful of neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, most of the Gaza Strip and some areas of southern Israel — if the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, disarm Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip, and fulfill other conditions.

The plan also allows Israel to annex settlements, grants the Jewish state sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and overriding security control west of the Jordan River, and bars Palestinian refugees from settling in Israel.

Russian officials have also previously made attempts to advance reconciliation efforts between Hamas and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority. Fatah and Hamas have been at loggerheads since 2007, when the latter forcibly ousted the former from Gaza.

Last Tuesday, several senior Hamas leaders, including its former chief Khaled Mashaal, met Mikhail Bogdanov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister and presidential Middle East envoy, in Qatar.

The Hamas leaders affirmed their rejection of the US plan to Bogdanov, the terror group’s official website reported, without stating whether they discussed Haniyeh potentially visiting Russia in the coming days.

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