Hamas leader visits Iran

Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri led a delegation of senior Hamas figures to Iran.

On Sunday the delegation met with Kamal Kharazi, the head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations. Al-Arour, who founded Izzad-din al Qassam, the military wing of Hamas, reportedly said that Hamas is “on the same path as the Islamic Republic — the path of battling the Zionist entity and the arrogant ones”.

Yesterday the delegation met with Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. After the meeting, the Supreme Leader issued a statement that called the US plan for Israeli-Palestinian talks a “dangerous plot” intended to destroy Palestinian identity with money. It added: “This is the main point that one should resist, and not allow them to eliminate the Palestinian identity using money … several years ago, Palestinians were fighting using stones now they have precision rockets.”

“Hamas is Iran’s first line of defence,” said Al-Arouri following the meeting.

Al-Arouri is believed to be based in Lebanon but is referred to as Hamas’s military commander in the West Bank. In 2014 al-Arouri instigated the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in 2014 that sparked a major conflict between Israel and Hamas in the summer of 2014. He is also thought to be closely associated with Hezbollah. Iran provides financial support and weapons to both Hamas and Hezbollah. Last November, the US State Department offered a reward of up to $5m for information that would lead to al-Arouri’s capture.

Last week Egypt prevented Ismail Haniya, head of Hamas political bureau, from leaving the Gaza Strip to visit several countries, including Iran, for a fundraising mission. According to Hamas, Egypt and Israel have been coordinating with one another to undermine Hamas’s relationship with the Iranian regime.

Egypt, like Israel, is deeply concerned by Iran’s investment in Hamas’s military wing, including efforts to smuggle weapons into Gaza via the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.

Yesterday Iran said it had arrested 17 spies who it claims were working for the CIA. Some were also sentenced to death. The 17 are all Iranian citizens working in “sensitive centres” in military and nuclear facilities for the private sector. They are suspected of collecting information on behalf of the US. President Donald Trump has dismissed the Iranian allegations as “totally false”.