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Conflicts Emerge Inside Hamas Over Creeping Iranian Influence

The commander of the West Bank wing of Hamas expressed concern that Iran’s growing financial and military support of the Palestinian terrorist group will turn it into “an Iranian executive tool,” the London-based newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported on Wednesday.

Saleh al-Arouri, who lives in Turkey, said in a closed session that the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, is trying to “lure Hamas by blurring the identity of the Qassam Brigades and integrate it with Quds Force to become an Iranian executive tool.”

He accused Iran of demanding the same loyalty from Hamas that it did of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which was promised $70 million in May in return for its fealty to Tehran. Arouri observed that siding with Iran could lead Hamas to be ostracized by Sunni Arab states and further shunned by the West.

Arouri specifically criticized Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar, who is closely affiliated with the group’s al-Qassam Brigade, for seeking closer ties with Iran. He did however agree with Zahar’s recent statement that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas should not be allowed to visit the Gaza Strip ahead of upcoming municipal elections.

Earlier this year, Subhi al-Tufayli, a founder of the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah, expressed concern that support from Iran was distracting from the group’s responsibility toward Lebanese Shiites.

In November 2014, Israeli authorities broke up a Hamas cell in the West Bank that Arouri directed. Arouri was also implicated in leading an August 2014 coup attempt against the Palestinian Authority. That same month, he admitted that Hamas was responsible for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers — Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel — that precipitated the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas.

[Photo: Hamas Media / YouTube ]