The new Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, Yehiyeh Sinwar, told the media on Monday that the group has repaired its five-year old rift with Iran and now the Iranians are Hamas’ largest backer both militarily and financially. Hamas is now preparing for new hostilities toward Israel.
This announcement is hardly news to the Israelis. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu complained about what he called rising anti-Israel activity by Iran and its allies in the region to members of the UN.
Iran was once the top backer of Hamas, an Islamic militant group that seeks Israel’s destruction. But Hamas broke with Iran in 2012 after the group refused to support Iran’s close ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, in the Syrian civil war.
“Today, the relationship with Iran is excellent, or very excellent,” Sinwar said. He added that the Islamic Republic is “the largest backer financially and militarily” to Hamas’ military wing.
It was the first time that Sinwar has met reporters since he was elected in February. The 55-year-old Sinwar, who spent two decades in Israeli prison after being convicted of masterminding the abduction and killing of two Israeli soldiers, has close ties with Hamas’ militant wing and takes a hard line toward Israel.
The Israelis are complaining to the U.N. that Iran is stockpiling weapons in Syria and is building up other bases in Lebanon for offensive action against Israel. As usual, it fell on deaf ears as UN officials said that they’ve encountered no evidence.
Sinwar, on the other hand, claims that Hamas is not considering a new war with Israel. Instead, he said, the government is focusing on improving the living conditions of those living in Gaza. But on the other, he said the assistance from Iran consisted of “rebuilding and accumulating” Hamas’ military powers for a larger fight against Israel that is meant to “liberate Palestine.”
“Thousands of people work every day to make rockets, [dig] tunnels and train frogmen,” he said. “The relationship with Iran is in this context.”
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