Will Hamas suck up to Iran to save itself?
In The New Republic, Ehud Yaari explains some of the reasons Hamas is in trouble. Its Muslim Brotherhood patrons in Egypt fell from power after it alienated Iran for stopping its support of Bashar Assad. These changes have precipitated a leadership split in Hamas.
For example, in contrast to Mashal’s Egypt focus, Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniyeh has emphasized the need to defend Hamas control over the strip. Although he accepted the position of deputy Executive Committee chief after failing to win the top Hamas post in April, he no longer heeds orders from Mashal.
Other leaders have urged speedy reconciliation with Iran, emphasizing that Hamas cannot afford to divorce itself from the “resistance axis”. The most adamant proponent of this view is Imad al-Alami, the group’s former permanent envoy in Tehran and head of the “Intifada Committee,” now returned from Damascus to Gaza. He is supported by military figures such as Muhammad Deif and Marwan Issa, and by politicians such as Mahmoud al-Zahar. In contrast, Mashal received heavy criticism for attending a much-publicized May sermon in Qatar in which Qaradawi railed against Iran and its partners. His response was that he did not have prior knowledge of what Qaradawi would say.
In recent weeks, Hamas has sent delegations to Beirut and Tehran in order to reach new understandings with Iran and Hezbollah. Although both parties replied that they will keep their doors open to Hamas, they also noted that they cannot normalize relations until the group modifies its position on Syria’s war and Iranian/Hezbollah involvement there.
Making matters worse for Hamas is that the new Egyptian government’s blockade of Gaza has severely limited Gaza’s supply of fuel.
“There are very few cars on the road and people line up for hours to get just a few liters of gas,” Omar Shaaban, an economist in Gaza told The Media Line. “There is only about 25 percent of the quantity that is needed.”
The shortage is also affecting municipal services such as sewage treatment plants which also run on fuel. Municipal officials in Gaza say they’ve began dumping untreated sewage into the Mediterranean Sea since they don’t have fuel to run the generators.
Egypt is sealing off the tunnels as part of its campaign against gunmen in the Sinai peninsula. Last August, insurgents in Sinai killed 16 Egyptian policemen. Egypt worries the Sinai gunmen could receive weapons through the tunnels and could even escape to Gaza.
Although it is reported that Gazans are angry with Egypt over the blockade, the gas shortage will likely hurt Hamas’s popularity too.
While Iran may be open to restoring ties with Hamas, currently it is working against the terrorist group that controls Gaza. The New York Times reports that Iran is sending aid to Gaza through a different terrorist group, Palestinians Islamic Jihad.
The food boxes bore the logo of Islamic Jihad and the Iranian flag alongside the Palestinian one. Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-backed extremist militant group, often challenges the larger Hamas.
Organizers at the packaging center said that the Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation, a Beirut-based Iranian charity, was financing the $2 million food aid project. Islamic Jihad has been granted the honors of distributing the 40,000 parcels, giving it a boost at a delicate time when Hamas is struggling to cope with a shifting regional landscape.
In recent months, Iran has suspended millions of dollars in monthly aid to Hamas because the group did not stand by President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, its former patron, in his struggle against rebel forces. Unlike Hamas, Islamic Jihad did not leave its base in Damascus and has kept up relations with the government of Mr. Assad, a longtime Iranian ally.