Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s attendance at the funeral of Iran’s Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani in Tehran on Monday has raised the ire of Egyptian and Saudi leaders, who firmly told Haniyeh that they were opposed to his participation in the funeral.
Furthermore, Egyptian media reported on Tuesday that Egypt allowed Haniyeh to leave Gaza in December on his first regional political trip since his 2017 election on the condition that Haniyeh would not visit Iran or meet with any Iranian officials. Egyptian sources said that Haniyeh’s violation of his promise will lead to a severe crisis in Egypt’s relationship with Hamas.
“Haniyeh’s arrival in Tehran, and his attendance at the funeral and his speech in Soleimani’s memory – in which he called [Soleimani] the greatest supporter of the Palestinian resistance and the Palestinian struggle for national recognition – was a disgrace and nothing less than a shameful attack on Egypt’s national honor,” the Egyptian official said.
“Haniyeh and Hamas have chosen to side with Iran while openly ignoring the unequivocal messages from Cairo and other Sunni Arab nations. Qassem Soleimani is responsible for the murder of thousands of Sunni Muslims, including many Palestinians.”
A report on Saudi Arabia’s official television channel said that the presence of Hamas at the funeral “has lifted the veil on Hamas.”
Haniyeh not only attended the funeral but was one of only several speakers, including Soleimani’s children. During his speech, he compared the US assassination of Soleimani to the “crimes of the Israeli regime.”
“General Qassem Soleimani is a ‘martyr of Quds’ for he devoted his life to supporting the Palestinian people’s struggle against Israel and his assassination by the United States is in many ways similar to crimes committed by the Israeli regime,” Haniyeh said.
“The Palestinian resistance to confront the Zionist project and fight the American domination will not be broken or weakened,” Haniyeh reassured the crowd. “Assassinations only give us more strength to liberate Jerusalem. Qassem Soleimani devoted his life to resistance and he is a shahid [martyr] of Jerusalem.”
Haniyeh attended the funeral together with Hamas political bureau leaders Saleh al-Arouri, founder of Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, as well as Hamas representative in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan, who served as the Hamas representative in Iran from 1994 until 1998. Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah and two other PIJ leaders also attended the funeral.
The Hamas delegation also met with the newly appointed Quds Force commander Esmail Ghaani and visited the home of the Soleimani family to express their condolences. Pictures showed that the PIJ leaders were present at the Soleimani family home together with the Hamas delegation.
The image of Hamas leaders standing next to leaders of the Islamic Republic stands in contrast with recent actions of the terror group, which have seemed to indicate an inclination to distance themselves from increased escalation with Israel and its allies. Hamas stood by in November when Islamic Jihad, which is closely linked with Iran, bombarded Israel with rockets. Additionally, Israel and Hamas are reportedly negotiating a ceasefire brokered by Egypt. Will this new tension between Egypt and Hamas bring an end to the ceasefire?
Haniyeh reportedly sent messages to Egypt and Saudi Arabia that his visit to Iran was due to the “special event” of Soleimani’s funeral which required the presence of Haniyeh as the head of the Hamas political bureau.
According to a TPS report, a source in the Gaza Strip said that Haniyeh also sent a message to Israel through Qatar that Hamas is not seeking an escalation and is not planning on attacking Israel to avenge Solemaini’s elimination. The message added that Hamas did not support the mourning tent for Soleimani that was set up in the Gaza Strip.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)