Senior members of the Hamas terror group met on Monday in Iran with representatives of the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard, according to Arabic media reports.
A high-level Hamas delegation arrived in Tehran on Friday in order to attend the inauguration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and to “turn a new page in bilateral relations” between the two sides, according to a statement by Hamas.
This is the first Hamas visit to Iran since the group elected new leadership earlier in 2017. The rapprochement between Hamas and Iran is reportedly being facilitated by the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, which is supported by Tehran.
The delegation consisted of Hamas political bureau members Ezzat al-Resheq, Saleh Arouri, Zaher Jabarin, and Osama Hamdan.
During its stay in Iran, the group met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday, as well as a number of other senior Iranian officials.
The Pan-Arab daily As-Sharq al-Awsat, which is Saudi-influenced, reported that members of the Hamas delegation representing the terror group’s military wing also met with members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – (IRGC) — a paramilitary force that answers directly to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — and discussed “common issues.”
Relations between Hamas and Iran soured after the Sunni Palestinian group, whose ex-leader Khaled Mashaal was once based in Damascus, refused to back the non-Sunni axis led by Syrian president Bashar Assad in the ongoing civil war, which started in 2011. Iran is backing Assad in the war.
But, according to the report, Iran is keen to restore ties with Hamas after Ismail Haniyeh was elected as head of Hamas’s political bureau and Yahya Sinwar as the group’s Gaza chief. Both are considered to be more open to reconciliation with Iran than Mashaal was.
Hamas also needs to re-establish ties with Iran, as its current top backer Qatar is under fire from Gulf allies for supporting the Palestinian terror group.
During their meeting on Monday, Zarif told the Hamas delegation, according to a readout of the meeting from Hamas, that Iran was “ready to put aside all disagreements for the sake of supporting Palestine and the Palestinian people as well as the unity of the Muslim world.”
Zarif said that the Palestinian issue remains a top foreign policy priority for Iran.
Meanwhile, Resheq, who headed the Hamas delegation, framed the renewing of ties between Iran and Hamas as a priority for the Islamic world in its efforts to defeat Israel.
“Hamas believes that the Muslim world should be united and should put disputes aside and join forces against the joint enemy, which is Israel,” he said.
On Monday the Hamas delegation also met Khamenei’s top aide for international affairs Ali Akbar Velayati, who said that “Tehran stands with Hamas.”
A-Sharq al-Awsat reported in May that Hamas and Iran conducted intensive talks in Lebanon, in which members of the Iranian revolutionary guard participated.
According to the report, an agreement was struck between the two sides that would see diplomatic relations return to what they were prior to the outbreak of the Syrian civil war.
The agreement was reportedly supported by commander of the IRGC’s al-Quds Brigades Qassam Soleimani, Haniyeh, and Sinwar.