Defying U.S., Israeli Demands on Palestinian Reconciliation, Senior Hamas Delegation Arrives in Iran

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Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (R) sits next to Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza City October 2, 2017
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (R) sits next to Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza City October 2, 2017Credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS

A delegation of senior Hamas officials arrived in Tehran on Friday for meetings with Iranian officials after the Gaza Strip organization announced that it would not cut its ties with Iran.

Salah al-Arouri, deputy head of Hamas' political bureau, said on Saturday that the trip is in direct response to the U.S. and Israel's demand that the organization sever its relationship with Iran and to disarm.

Al-Arouri added that the Palestinian reconciliation process will not impact Hamas' military wing, which he sees as a strategic decision for the defense of the Palestinian people.

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Hamas' delegation is to meet with Iranian officials for meetings over a number of days, aiming to update Iranians on the details of the reconciliation deal signed in Cairo two weeks ago.

The Agence France-Presse quoted a senior Hamas official as saying that the organization sought to increase its cooperation with Iran, and to "secure Iranian financial and logistical support."

A senior Hamas official, Taher al-Nunu said over the weekend that "the relationship between Hamas and Iran has greatly improved over the past months."

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In August, a Hamas delegation visited the Iranian capital for President Hassan Rohani's swearing in ceremony. This week's visit to Tehran comes at a sensitive time, in light of Hamas' recent steps towards reconciliation with the Palestinian Authority, and subsequent demands from the U.S. and Israel that Hamas disarm and cut its ties with Iran.

Hamas expects that with Iran as its middleman, the organization can develop its relationship with Lebanon's Hezbollah, as well as with Syria. Al-Arouri and other senior Hamas officials left Qatar's capital city, Doha, and moved to Lebanon, where they held meetings with Hezbollah officials.

Hamas does not see any contradiction between its deepened relationship with Iran on the one hand, and the reconciliation deal with the Palestinian Authority on the other hand. "Hamas is a popular resistance organization, and as such, it is natural that they develop relationships with Arab and Muslim countries that believe in the Palestinian cause," added al-Nunu.