Saleh al-Arouri (L), Hamas deputy chief, meets with Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's National Security Council, in Tehran, Iran October 21, 2017. .
(photo credit: TASNIM NEWS AGENCY/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
If a war were to break out between Israel and Iranian-backed forces in Syria, the possibility that Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip would join the battle is more realistic today compared to a year ago.
What has made the possibility of Israel facing a two-front war more realistic?
Hamas’s relations with Iran deteriorated in 2011 after the group refused to support the Iranian-backed Syrian President Bashar Assad when a civil war broke out in Syria. At the time, senior Hamas leaders relocated from their headquarters in Damascus to Doha, and Iran started to provide support for armed groups in Gaza that strongly oppose Hamas.
However, in the past year, Hamas has expended many efforts to restore its ties with Tehran, dispatching a number of delegations to Iran to meet with senior Iranian officials and defending it in public forums against the criticisms of its Middle Eastern rivals.
In August, Hamas chief in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar told reporters that Iran had become the biggest supporter of Hamas’s armed wing, the Izzeldin Kassam Brigades.
In December, Deputy Hamas chief Salih al-Arouri described relations with Iran as “excellent” and praised it for supporting “the resistance” in Gaza. “What Iran provides the resistance is not symbolic or superficial. It is real, central and essential the resistance’s undertaking, continuation and effectiveness,” he told the Hamas-linked Al Quds TV.
For all intensive purposes, it has become clear that Iran and Hamas have moved past their former quarrels and now see each other as strategic partners.
Hamas leaders have said they are not interested in a new war with Israel after engaging in three violent conflicts with the Jewish state in the past ten years.
But if a war were to break out between Israel and Iranian-backed forces in Syria and northern Israel, in light of Hamas and Iran’s closer ties, the possibility of Kassam Brigade fighters opening a second front against Israel is more realistic today than a year ago.