The Israeli government has protested to Russia for meeting a senior Hamas military official, Haaretz reported on Wednesday. Saleh Al-Arouri was part of the Hamas delegation which visited Moscow recently, but Israel’s Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, Zeev Elkin, told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that this “is not acceptable”.
The Hamas delegation, including the Deputy Head of the movement’s Political Bureau, Mousa Abu Marzouk, arrived in Moscow on 19 September to discuss Middle East issues with Russian officials. According to Israel, Al-Arouri runs the Hamas military wing in the occupied West Bank. He spent 17 years in an Israeli prison with neither charge nor trial before being released in 2011. The Hamas official settled in Turkey, but was asked to leave following the rapprochement between Ankara and Tel Aviv last year. He has since been in Qatar and, latterly, Lebanon.
Elkin said that the issue of Al-Arouri’s visit to Russia was the main agenda item for the talks with Lavrov. He noted that there is a big difference between Israel and Russia regarding the relationship with Hamas, but told the Foreign Minister that this visit was “dangerous and exceptional”. Russia, insists the Israeli minister, crossed a red line in the case of Al-Arouri.
He said that he handed over a dossier prepared by the Israeli Foreign Ministry about the anti-Israel activities that Al-Arouri is alleged to have been involved in. Lavrov, claimed Elkin, was surprised by the information in the dossier and said that it was all new to him. His aides, said Elkin, have now been asked to look into the case to make sure that such a visit will not be possible in the future.
Speaking to a Russian radio station, the Israeli official pointed out that there is strong cooperation between Israel and Russia in the war on terror and that Israel has helped to undermine terror attacks against Russian citizens. As such, Elkin insisted, it is not acceptable for Al-Arouri to go to Moscow on an official visit.