Hamas leader Khaled Meshal met with a senior Iranian official in the Qatari capital Thursday, reflecting the group’s efforts to return to Iran’s orbit, Palestinian sources close to Hamas said.
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Hamas and Tehran were close before the group broke with Syrian President Bashar Assad during the Syrian civil war.
On Thursday, Meshal and Iran's speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani, discussed regional developments, the Palestinian issue, the blockade of Gaza and “Israeli threats,” Hamas said in a statement.
According to Arab media reports, Hamas and Iranian officials have been meeting in Tehran in recent months. The relationship began warming after the Gaza war last summer. At a rally in Gaza several weeks ago, Hamas military spokesman Abu Obeida thanked Iran for its logistical and military support.
Hamas has been changing its strategy since the overthrow of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013 and the fall from grace of the Muslim Brotherhood. Gaza has also suffered amid the Israeli embargo and Hamas’ incomplete reconciliation with Fatah.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in an interview two months ago that Hamas sought to rejoin the Iranian-Syrian axis.
“The relationship between Hamas and the regime in Syria is complex because of Hamas’ support for the opposition groups," Nasrallah said. “While the time has not yet come to discuss this relationship, the connection between Hezbollah and Hamas and the other Palestinian resistance groups is improving all the time.”
Nasrallah also expressed a willingness to mediate between Hamas and Tehran. Iran already has a significant presence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
Hamas’ military wing needs economic and logistical support, while its political leaders aim to lower tensions with Egypt. On Thursday, Hamas officials welcomed the Egyptian government’s appeal of a court ruling defining Hamas as a terrorist group.
Meanwhile, Hamas and Palestinian Authority officials continue trading barbs over the lack of progress on a reconstruction plan for Gaza. Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk said the group rejected proposals for a long cease-fire with Israel, the lifting of the embargo and the granting of permission for building a port and airport if Gaza was still cut off from the West Bank.
PA officials said Hamas’ control over crossings was blocking progress in rebuilding Gaza. Mohammad al-Amadi, the head of the Qatari Committee to Rebuild Gaza, said Wednesday he had held meetings in the Strip and would return to Ramallah in a bid to move reconstruction proposals forward. He said he wanted to start with rebuilding destroyed homes and buildings and resolving the electricity crisis.