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Hamas denies having fighters outside Palestine

June 9, 2017 at 12:34 pm

Hamas has denied recent allegations that it has fighters based outside Palestine, Anadolu has reported. An official from the movement stressed yesterday that its struggle is solely against the Israeli occupation.

Khalil Al-Hayya made his comment at the funeral of a senior member of the armed wing of Hamas, Al-Qassam Brigades, who was killed in an accident the day before. “Hamas has not and will not direct its compass to fight in another arena,” he insisted. “Its weapons will remain directed toward Israel, and we will continue to pursue and resist Israel even if we sacrifice our leaders, our sons and our homes.”

Al-Hayya did not clarify the reason for making such a comment, but it came a day after Ahmed Al-Mismari, a spokesman for the Haftar forces in Libya, accused Al-Qassam Brigades of fighting there with the support of the State of Qatar. This was clearly an attempt to add fuel to the fire of the Arab rift with the government in Doha.

Read: Hamas’ strategic quandary

According to Amos Harel, the military and defence analyst at Haaretz, the crisis between Saudi Arabia and Qatar could have consequences in another arena closer to Israel. He suggested that the recent decline in Qatari support for Hamas, following the rift, could possibly lead to another outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas this summer, on the back of the water and electricity supply crisis in Gaza. Harel pointed out that the worsening conditions in Gaza also worry Israeli security officials, not least because Hamas has been encouraging Palestinians in Gaza to start demonstrations near the border fence with Israel, after several months during which it prevented all such activity.

In recent years, Qatar has been one of the main props of the de facto Hamas government in Gaza. The movement’s ties with Egypt were damaged by the 2013 coup that brought former General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to power. Indeed, Qatar has been supporting Hamas “financially and politically”, not least by helping to reconstruct the Gaza Strip following the Israeli military offensive in 2014. It has also intervened to resolve the movement’s conflicts with Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Iran has also reduced its financial support to Hamas (although it was partly restored recently) due to the Sunni-Shia conflict over the Syrian civil war. This, claims Harel, comes at a time when Turkey’s interest in Gaza has declined following the reconciliation agreement with Israel and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s troubles both at home and abroad.