Iran is the top sponsor of the Palestinian division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad said on Monday.
Since Hamas ousted the Palestinian Authority from Gaza in 2007, a Hamas-controlled government has ruled Gaza, while a PA government has dominated Palestinian cities in the West Bank.
“The first sponsor of the division is Iran,” Ahmad, the primary Fatah official in charge of discussing reconciliation with Hamas, said in an interview with the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya news outlet, in a rare rebuke of Iran from a Palestinian official.
Ahmad’s comments come as Hamas and Fatah are struggling to implement an agreement to advance reconciliation efforts uniting the West Bank and Gaza under the PA.
A major dispute between the two parties is the future of Gaza’s security and weapons. Fatah officials have demanded that the PA control all weapons in the Strip, while Hamas officials have stated that their armed wing, the Izzeldin Kassam Brigades, will not be disarmed.
According to Hamas chief in Gaza Yahya Sinwar, Iran is the biggest sponsor of the Kassam Brigades.
In the past six weeks, delegations of senior Hamas officials including Deputy Hamas Politburo chief Salih al-Arouri visited Tehran to meet with Iranian officials.
Following Hamas’s visit to the Iranian capital in October, Iran pledged to increase its support for armed Palestinian factions, including the Kassam Brigades.
“Iran’s support for the resistance will increase day by day,” Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei, said in October.