Until just a year ago, Iran’s proxy, the Lebanese Shiite Hizballah, and the radical Palestinian Sunni Hamas were best friends and united eternally in their war of “resistance” against Israel.
Since then, their undying friendship has vanished in a cloud of smoke over the Syrian battlefield.
Last week the Hizballah force leading the Syrian army in the battle for Al-Qusayr captured five armed Hamas Palestinians, who were fighting alongside Syrian Sunni rebels.
No sooner was Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah informed, when he took action.
DEBKA Weekly reports that the Hamas office housed alongside Hizballah headquarters in Beirut’s Dahya district was summarily shut down and its staff expelled from the city. That was the first order handed to the Hamas envoy in Lebanon Ali Baraka by Wafiq Safa, Hizballah’s Syrian war commander who also heads its intelligence and terror operations.
Hamas cells were next pulled out of southern Lebanon. Ali Baraka quickly relocated them in the southern port town of Sidon where Hizballah has no influence. Finally, Nasrallah cut off the supply of military and technical assistance from Hizballah to the Hamas military arm, the Ezz a-Din al-Qassam Brigades, in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
All Hamas funds cut off
Our intelligence and Iranian sources confirm that the Hizballah crackdown on Hamas was coordinated with the office of the Al Qods Brigades chief, Gen. Qasem Soleimani.
Without a word, Tehran stopped the flow of funds to Hamas. When Gaza government officers asked Iranian officials when to expect their remittance, they were answered with evasions. Hamas was left in the dark about when – or even if – any more funds would be forthcoming from Tehran.
It was also left in desperate financial straits: Qatar, the newest benefactor of the Palestinian group, has cut back on its allowance, Saudi Arabia stopped it altogether last year and its parent organization, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, is stone broke.
This week, Hamas chiefs in Istanbul, Gaza and Cairo put their heads to together and decided the next thing to do was to send missions of conciliation to call on Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran and Hizballah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut.
The first was led by Emad al-Alami, a member of the Hamas Political Bureau and a military operations leader; the second by Salah al-Arouri, who runs the Hamas operation on the West Bank from Istanbul.
The two delegations have arrived at their destinations and are waiting for appointments to be scheduled.
Hamas switches sides from Syrian rebels to Bashar Assad
So, once again, Hamas is twisting in the wind.
The radical Palestinian group ruling the Gaza Strip started pulling out of the Iranian-Hizballah sphere of influence in November 2012 when it was nudged by the US, Egyptian, Qatari and Turkish diplomacy into signing a ceasefire for ending Israel’s Pillar of Defense operation against its rocket offensive.
Hamas’s new pro-Western orientation was endorsed by Khaled Meshaal, the former and current politburo head.
Marwan Issa, commander of the Hamas military arm, then went into voluntary exile in Tehran. At the time, he raised no objections to the truce – any more than did Mahmoud a-Zahar, Hamas’s Gazan strongman and head of its pro-Tehran faction.
But eight months later, that faction sees its chance to turn the organization back to Iran’s embrace.
Its military chiefs now argue that their organization has no interest in getting involved in the Arab Revolt or the Syrian war, because it has only one goal: Fighting a war of resistance against Israel.
However, since Hamas’s partner in the “resistance” front, Hizballah, is fighting for Bashar Assad, and since Assad himself has offered his war allies the chance to use Syrian territory to fight Israel and liberate the Golan, the Palestinian extremists must now refocus their orientation and seize the opportunity for confronting Israel from Syria.
If this means dumping fellow Sunni Syrian rebels and aligning with Assad, so be it.
The Hamas leader A-Zahar, who drew up the protocols covering Hamas’s commitments to Iran’s Middle East interests last September, is now urging his organization to go back to those commitments. He maintains that no one but Tehran and Hizballah can be counted on to provide Hamas with the weapons for attacking Israel. And to get back on the winning side of the Syrian war, Hamas is willing to switch sides once again.