Saleh al-Arouri (L), Hamas deputy chief, shakes hands with Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's National Security Council, during their meeting in Tehran, Iran October 21, 2017..
(photo credit: TASNIM NEWS AGENCY/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Iran agreed to continue its support for “Palestine and the resistance,” Hamas deputy chairman Saleh al-Arouri said.
Arouri’s comment came after multiple meetings in Tehran between him and senior Iranian officials, including Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“The main result [of our meetings] is the continuation of the Islamic Republic [of Iran]’s commitment toward Palestine and the resistance in Palestine.... We hope this support will continue and grow until the resistance will be able to defeat the occupation,” Arouri said in an interview on Sunday with Iran’s al-Alam TV, referring to Hamas’s armed wing, Izzadin Kassam.
Iran has long supported Izzadin Kassam, which has some 25,000 members and has fought in three wars with Israel over the past 10 years.
According to Arouri as well as Hamas chief in Gaza Yahya Sinwar, Iran is the biggest backer of Izzadin Kassam.
Arouri also responded to Israeli criticism of his visit to Tehran, saying that Hamas undertakes many actions and holds multiple positions that do not please Israel.
“In terms of what provokes and vexes them [Israel], we do not only take steps like visiting the Islamic Republic, but we fight them, wage war against them, prepare to battle them, do not recognize their legitimacy, and do not accept their existence on this land,” he said.
Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai on Friday sharply criticized Arouri for visiting Tehran, arguing that the Hamas leader was “selling” Gaza to Iran.
When asked about concessions Hamas made to advance Egyptian-led reconciliation efforts, Arouri said that while Hamas is always ready to make concessions, there is a limit to the degree of concessions it can make.
Just under two weeks ago, Egypt brokered an agreement between Hamas and Fatah to restore the Palestinian Authority’s governing authority in Gaza.
“We are always ready to make concessions for the sake of Palestinian unity, but concessions have limits. We cannot give up on our principles related to our people’s rights, our duty to our people and our way in confronting the Israeli occupation,” Arouri said.
Hamas officials have repeated many times over the past several weeks that while they are ready to empower the PA government in Gaza, they will not make Izzadin Kassam give up its weapons.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas has said that he will not accept a scenario in which the PA takes responsibility for Gaza, and Izzadin Kassam holds on to its weapons.
Arouri added that the policy document Hamas issued in May did not constitute “any change” in Hamas’s strategy.
“There is nothing new in terms of our belief in the right of the Palestinian people to all of Palestine, the illegitimacy of the occupation, and our right to use all forms of resistance to confront the occupation....
This is a fixed strategy that did not change,” Arouri said.
When Hamas issued its policy document earlier this year, many experts saw it as an attempt to engage countries like Egypt as well as Europe.
However, the document did not meet the minimum standard of what most of the international community, including the US and Europe, require to work with Hamas.
For example, while the document called a Palestinian state along 1967 borders “a national consensus,” it also said there is no “alternative to the complete and full liberation of Palestine,” from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.” The international community wants Hamas to support a position that includes recognition of Israel.