Hamas Deputy Chief Meets Hezbollah Leader Nasrallah in Lebanon

Meeting comes as Mideast alliances begin to shift with unity deal between Hamas and its rival Fatah

Hamas's new deputy leader Salah al-Aruri (left) and Fatah's Azzam al-Ahmad (right) sign a reconciliation deal in Cairo, Egypt, October 12, 2017.
KHALED DESOUKI/AFP

Hamas's new deputy leader Salah al-Aruri recently met with Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon, according to local news reports.

The conversation reportedly focused on the current reconciliation process between Hamas and its rival Fatah after a decade of political division and hostility and its implications for internal Palestinian politics and the region.

Fatah-Hamas reconciliation was being brokered by the Egyptians, who are keen to reassert their leadership in the region. The Egyptians are trying to reign in Hamas from its past and current ties with Iran which supports Hezbollah.

In a statement issued by Hezbollah, it tried to emphasize the connections between it and Hamas. It said the two groups had common cause as resistance organizations and who cooperate against Israeli aggression.

The warming of ties between Hamas and Hezbollah began about a year ago, and was strengthened recently by the visit of a Hamas delegation to Tehran.

Al-Aruri, who left Qatar a few months ago, moved to Beirut, where he manages the organization's foreign affairs and holds meetings with senior Iranian and Lebanese officials.

Al-Aruri was a founder of Hamas' fighting force, the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, and has many spent years in and out of Israeli prison. In 2010 Al-Aruri was released for what what may have been his role in helping negotiate the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who had been kidnapped and held captive in Gaza for six years by Hamas. 

As part of the condition of his release he was exiled abroad by Israel and has since lived in Turkey and Qatar before moving to Lebanon.

Hezbollah's announcement also said that Nasrallah had also spoken with Ramadan Abdallah Shalah, the leader of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad to comfort him after eight of its men were killed in a tunnel that was blown up Monday by the Israeli army. Two of them were senior field commanders.

Israeli forces destroyed the cross-border tunnel that Palestinian militants were building into Israel from Gaza. The border area between Gaza and southern Israel had been mostly calm since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, but there are now concerns this incident could lead to a revenge attack by Hamas or Islamic Jihad.  

On Wednesday, one of the first milestones of the new unity deal between Hamas and Fatah was marked as the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas assumed full control of the border crossings between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.