New Hamas leader says that Iran is funding the group
Article RadarTHIS ARTICLE CONNECT:
- Hezbollah Hezbollah is a Shi’a Islamist militant group and political party based...[+]
- Hamas Hamas is a Palestinian Islamic organization, with an associated military wing,...[+]
Hamas new leader in the Gaza Strip said Monday his group has repaired relations with Iran after a five-year rift and is using its newfound financial and military aid to gear up for new hostilities with Israel.
The announcement by Yehiyeh Sinwar came as U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was visiting Israel.
Iran was once the top backer of Hamas, an Islamic militant group that seeks Israel’s destruction. But Hamas broke with Iran in 2012 after the group refused to support Iran’s close ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, in the Syrian civil war.
During a four-hour meeting with journalists, Sinwar said those ties have been restored and are stronger than ever.
“Today, the relationship with Iran is excellent, or very excellent,” Sinwar said. He added that the Islamic Republic is “the largest backer financially and militarily” to Hamas’ military wing.
It was the first time that Sinwar has met reporters since he was elected in February. The 55-year-old spent two decades in Israeli prison after being convicted of masterminding the abduction and killing of two Israeli soldiers. He has close ties with Hamas’ militant wing and takes a hard line toward Israel.
Israel and Iran are bitter enemies, and Israel has recently expressed concern that Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah are seeking a permanent military presence in Syria near the Israeli border. Both Hezbollah fighters and Iran have backed Assad’s forces in the Syrian war.
Guterres heads to the West Bank on Tuesday and is scheduled to visit Gaza on Wednesday. The U.N. maintains major operations in Gaza, running schools and health clinics and delivering humanitarian aid. Guterres is not scheduled to speak to Hamas.
Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, commander of COGAT, the defense body that is responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, blames Hamas for poor conditions in Gaza, saying the group tries to exploit civilians and aid programs. He also said Hamas’ refusal to return the remains of two dead Israeli soldiers, along with two Israeli civilians it is holding, hinders Israeli efforts to assist Gaza.
“The terror organization Hamas does not hesitate at all and repeatedly exploits the Gaza residents by attempting to take advantage of Israel’s assistance, despite the severe civil hardships in the strip,” Mordechai said.
In his briefing with reporters, Sinwar would not say how much aid Iran provides his group. Before the 2012 breakup, Iran provided an estimated $50 million a month to Hamas.
Hamas wrested control of Gaza from the Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas’ forces in 2007. Since then, it has fought three wars with Israel. Hamas has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings, shootings and other attacks. It is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and the European Union.
Source: Defence News