Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Musa Abu Marzuk led an SOS delegation to Tehran last month in a desperate effort to persuade Iran to end its boycott and renew the flow of funds and weapons to the Gaza Strip. But on April 4, the delegation returned home empty-handed.
This was a last-ditch effort since the Palestinian fundamentalist Hamas which rules the Gaza Strip is flat broke.
Since March 1, it has been forced to slash by two-thirds the wages paid to members of its military wing, the Ezz-a-din Qassem Brigades: each fighter now takes home $200 instead of $600 per month, and officers used to earning $1,000 must be satisfied with $350.
DEBKA’s military and intelligence sources add: The terrorist group has moreover halted recruitment for lack of funds to pay, accommodate or train new fighters.
The cash crunch has also hit the Hamas government. Most of Gaza’s municipal services are suspended because city officials have not been paid.
Iran’s boycott on military and financial assistance to the Gaza Strip was clamped down in mid-2015 over Hamas’ refusal to line up behind Iran’s unqualified endorsement of its allies, Syrian President Bashar Assad and Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
Since then, Hamas has spared no effort to end the shutdown. Its leaders even tried asking their friend and ally, Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah, to intercede on their behalf with his masters in Tehran. Nasrallah pulled some strings, suggesting that his group would be allowed to renew military and intelligence operations in Gaza to make it worthwhile for Iran to restore its support.
But that proposition like all previous applications was thrown out.
This time, the Hamas visitors were initially received by high Iranian officials, including Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council, and Ali Larijiani, chairman of the Shura Council. Abu Marzuk asked them to put the case for ending the boycott before Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
After the Palestinian officials cooled their heels for two weeks, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Al Qods Brigades, finally gave them a hearing.
But, according to DEBKA’s Iranian sources report, he told them bluntly that no more largesse would be forthcoming from the Islamic Republic until Hamas publicly declared its support for Syrian President Assad and ordered its fighting assets in Lebanon to join Hizballah’s military campaign in support of the Syrian ruler.
This confrontation has broad ramifications over and above Iran’s relations with the Palestinian terrorists.
1. Tehran demonstrated that its support for Assad is absolute and brooks no opposition. This should dash any hopes underlying the US-Russian understanding for a political resolution of the Syrian conflict that Assad would at some point agree to hand over power to a broad coalition.
Iran is ruthless in bending all its allies and dependents into toeing its line in defense of the Syrian ruler
2. Gen. Soleimani has resurfaced after a five-month disappearance from public view. Rumors abounded that he had been seriously wounded in a Syrian battle, or else fallen into disfavor with Khamenei and cast aside. His reappearance in Tehran with the Hamas delegation means he has been reinstated to the command of Iran’s forces in Syria and the role of operations coordinator with the Russian military.
3. After Iran’s door was slammed in their faces, Hamas leaders reluctantly tried patching up their tattered ties with Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi.
But a delegation to Cairo found Egyptian military and intelligence officials as tough-minded as the Iranians. Hamas terrorists were put on notice that, to mend relations, they would have to prove their good faith by cooperating with Cairo in the war against the Islamic State in Sinai. Specifically, the Palestinian terrorists must hand over to the Egyptian army all the intelligence data they had accumulated on the ISIS networks in Sinai with whom they were playing ball.
Though insolvent, Hamas decided it could not afford to comply with Egypt’s terms for assistance. As DEBKA’s sources explain, breaking up with the Islamic State affiliates in Sinai, would also snap Hamas’ last remaining conduit for the receipt of smuggled funds and weapons from Islamist sources in Libya.
Having burned their boats to Tehran and Cairo, the Palestinian terrorists have run themselves into a dead end.
Hysteria regarding the threat posed by Hamas resurfaced in Israel this week, even though the terrorist organization’s military strength is gradually disintegrating mainly amid a cash crunch that nobody in the Hamas political or military leadership has been able to resolve.
It all started from a briefing given by the head of the IDF Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, to military correspondents following a defensive exercise in the Gaza border area.
Afterwards, the heads of the Israeli defense establishment commented on the threat posed by Hamas using clichés that have been familiar to the Israeli public for years. Perhaps the most common one is “Hamas is not interested in an escalation now… but.” Another one is “Israel and the IDF are not interested in an escalation now…but.”
One of the heads of the Israeli local councils in the Gaza border area added that he was not surprised by recent comments by senior IDF officers on the strengthening of the Hamas. “The statements that Hamas operatives are continuing terror operations can only surprise those who are detached from reality,” he said.
Amid the terrorist organization’s weakness, Israeli hysteria is helping Hamas conceal its true situation from the Palestinian public.