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Hamas Officials Seek to Boost Ties With Iran, As Group Stockpiles Advanced Weapons

Hamas officials are scrambling to shore up ties with Iran, which have been strained by the role that Iran and its Lebanese terror proxy Hezbollah have been playing in bolstering the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria:

“I cannot say the relationship with Iran was severed, but it was affected,” Salah Bardawil, a spokesman for the Hamas movement in Gaza told the Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat, commenting on the recent intervention of Iran and its ally Hezbollah in fighting alongside the Assad regime in Syria. “Hamas is uninterested in declaring war on Iran or Hezbollah. Our only direct war is with Israel,” the Hamas official said, refusing to divulge whether Iran’s funding for Hezbollah had stopped.

Hamas reoriented its political affiliation in February 2012, when it shuttered its headquarters in Damascus and dispersed its political leadership between Turkey, Qatar and Egypt. Hamas denied reports that its offices in Tehran were closed by the government over the abandonment of its Syrian ally.

In the meantime the Palestinian terror group has shifted to importing fewer but higher quality weapons into the Gaza Strip, which it controls and from within which it targets Israeli population centers:

The breach with Iran has not put paid to arms importing, however, the senior IDF officer emphasized… Rejecting the notion that weapons smuggling had ground to a virtual halt in the wake of the rift with Iran, he described the Gaza Strip as “a termite’s nest,” cut with hundreds of offensive and defensive tunnels, and said that the tunnel industry “is still working well.”

He had no comment about recent reports that no medium-range rockets, such as the Iranian-made Fajr-5, had been smuggled into Gaza since Operation Pillar of Defense. But he did say that advanced weapons were regularly arriving in Hamas hands, perhaps from Libya. “There are lots of anti-tank weapons, including many of the advanced [Russian] Kornet missiles, and there are RPG-7s everywhere,” he said.

Analysts have emphasized that Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense, launched last year after months of escalatory rocket fire by Hamas, achieved nearly unparalleled success in forcing Hamas to cease targeting Israelis for an extended period of time. The group, however, has emphasized in recent days that it remains committed to the eradication of Israel, and its access to advanced weapons risks another deterioration in regional security.

[Photo: Israel Defense Forces / Wiki Commons]