Hamas, Iran Meet for First Time in Three Years as Unity Deal Nears

Palestinian media reports that a Hamas-Fatah government may be announced later this week.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Khaled Meshal
Khaled MeshalCredit: Reuters
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Hamas’ political leader, Khaled Meshal, reportedly met with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian last Thursday, the first public meeting between the two sides in three years.

According to Iranian sources, the meeting was held in Doha, Qatar, where Meshal has been living since 2012.

Ties were severed between the two sides after Hamas refused to support Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, leading to the ouster of Hamas from its headquarters in Damascus. Hamas is extremely keen to improve relations with Iran, since the organization has been left without patrons following last year’s collapse of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo.

The meeting reportedly dealt with two issues: the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, and the ongoing Syrian civil war. Palestinian websites stated that Meshal supported the unity pact, claiming it as vital for the Palestinian people. Meshal reportedly said that Israel has exploited the rift, and the crisis in the Arab world, to continue building settlements and increasing the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem.

Meshal praised Iranian support for the “axis of resistance,” as he called it, as well as Iran’s calls for a political resolution to the war in Syria.

The timing of Meshal’s meeting with the Iranian official is important in view of reports suggesting an imminent declaration of a united Palestinian government. In previous years, the Palestinian Authority accused Iran of meddling in Palestinian politics, pressuring Hamas and Islamic Jihad not to join such a government.

It is believed that, this time, the Iranians will not interfere to such an extent, but will still wish to maintain close ties with both Islamic factions in Gaza.

In Ramallah, meanwhile, there is talk of the new government being announced by the end of this week. These reports suggest that the prime minister will not be Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas but rather Dr. Rami Hamdallah, the current prime minister who will continue in his post, at least on a temporary basis.

The head of Fatah’s reconciliation delegation, Azzam al-Ahmad, revealed some details on the progress and implementation of the conciliatory process. These included sensitive issues such as security and the control of security forces.

Ahmad said a committee with representatives from Arab states will oversee the restructuring of the security apparatus, especially in the Gaza Strip.

He also emphasized the role Egypt will play, with Egyptian security officials taking an active role in organizing Palestinian security forces in Gaza, incorporating the thousands of Hamas police officers into existing Palestinian Authority frameworks.

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