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Tensions in Hamas Surface Over Ties with Qatar, Syria, and Iran

The Arab newspaper Rai Al-Aam reports (Arabic link) that tensions inside the terrorist organization Hamas are pitting factions who support Iran and the Syrian regime against those who are based in Qatar.

The origin of this internal Hamas conflict centers on the decision by Hamas’s political leadership and its chairman Khaled Meshaal to abandon Hamas headquarters in Syria a few years ago. There were harsh disagreements about whether the movement should leave Syria, and especially whether it should move to Qatar, a country that is hostile to the Syrian regime.

The eventual decision aroused the ire of other senior Hamas figures, especially those in Gaza, who later claimed that leaving Syria angered Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad and his ally Iran, which in turn led to the decision to reduce the supply of Iranian-funded arms to Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

This conflict surfaced again last month, when Iran postponed a request by Meshaal to visit Tehran while allowing other lower Hamas officials to visit its territory. According to Rai Al-Aam, this is another sign of Iranian anger over the Hamas leader who left Syria. A week ago, Syrian president Assad also attacked Meshaal (Arabic link).

Within Hamas there are now two conflicting opinions. The first wants to maintain Hamas’ relationship with Qatar and Turkey, despite the Qatari move to improve relations with moderate Sunni countries, including Egypt, which is very hostile towards Hamas. The second group wants to normalize relations with Tehran.

More specifically, the military wing of Hamas in Gaza is very interested in improving relations with Iran. During the terror group’s 27th anniversary parade, a spokesman thanked Iran for its military assistance. This statement indicates the movement’s desire for more weapons from the Islamic Republic.

Meanwhile, senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk confirmed that Iran promised his movement that it will resume the flow of its aid to the Gaza Strip. In an interview with a Turkish news agency, Abu Marzouk said (Arabic link) that relations with Tehran have returned to their natural state.

[Photo: Lodgaard / Flickr]