(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran has canceled a scheduled visit by a Hamas delegation to the Islamic Republic in response to Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal's visit to Tehran's rival Saudi Arabia last month, the Huffington Post's Arabic edition quoted informed sources as saying Saturday.
According to the sources, a senior official in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards met with Hamas representatives in an undisclosed Arab capital to condemn Mashaal's visit to Riyadh, saying that the trip was made against Iran's wishes.
The Iranian official expressed deep anger at the visit, according to the report, and wondered why Mashaal had immediately accepted the Saudi invitation while he had refrained from visiting Tehran for more than four years, despite an open invitation from the Iranian leadership.
Hamas representatives explained that the visit was not intended to be "against Iran," but rather it came as part of the group's openness to all nations and Saudi Arabia's important impact on the Arab and Islamic world, as well as its international influence.
The Iranian official said that the Saudis were attempting to bring Hamas into their orbit in the aftermath of the Iran nuclear deal, as part of its efforts to enlist support against Tehran.
The official told the Hamas representatives at the conclusion of the "stormy" meeting that the Hamas delegation's expected visit to Iran was being canceled because the Iranian leadership was furious at Mashaal's visit to Saudi Arabia.
Following last month's meeting between Mashaal and Saudi King Salmon, senior Hamas official Salah Bardawl told Ma'an News Agency that there had been a breakthrough
in previously tense relations between the two sides.
Relations between the two sides were strained for many years, especially due to the failure of Saudi and Arab efforts to end the Hamas-Fatah conflict. The Saudis are also believed to have been upset with Hamas’s close ties with Iran.
"We sensed that there is a readiness in Saudi Arabia to support the Palestinian cause," Bardawl explained, asserting that the Saudi's tremendous amount of political capitol could offer "large support for the Palestinian cause on a political, moral, and material level."
At the time, some saw the possible rapprochement between Hamas and Saudi Arabia as a sign that the Islamist movement has decided to distance itself from Iran.
Iran and Hamas have already experienced strained relations in recent years, stemming from a difference of loyalties in Syria's civil war, with the former - alongside its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah - supporting the regime of President Bashar Assad and the latter siding with rebels fighting to topple the government in Damascus.
A Hamas official said late last month, following Mashaal's visit to Saudi Arabia, that aid from Iran to the Palestinian Islamic organization has ceased in large
In an interview with the Arabic news network Al Jazeera, Mousa Abu Marzouk, the deputy head of Hamas's political bureau said financial backing, including military funding, has become stagnant.
He added that aid from Iran was critical in helping to organize "resistance operations," indicating actions against Israel.
"Assistance was halted and remains suspended," Abu Marzouk told Al Jazeera without stating specifically when the cut occurred. "The lack of military aid and aid for residents in the Gaza Strip is difficult to handle."
Abu Marzouk stated that Hamas was working to strengthen relations with the Islamic Republic, "for the benefit of the Palestinian issue."
Khaled Abu Toameh and Yasser Okbi contributed to this report.
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