(Daily Telegraph) Iran has sent Hamas’s military wing tens of millions of dollars to help it rebuild the network of tunnels in Gaza destroyed by Israel’s invasion last summer, intelligence sources have told The Sunday Telegraph.
It is also funding new missile supplies to replenish stocks used to bombard residential neighbourhoods in Israel during the war, code-named Operation Protective Edge by Israel.
The renewed funding is a sign that the two old allies are putting behind them a rift caused by the conflict in Syria, where Shia Iran is backing President Bashar al-Assad against Hamas’s mainly Sunni allies.
Iran has sponsored Hamas’s military operations for years, despite thecontradiction that Hamas is part of the worldwide, Sunni-supremacist Muslim Brotherhood, while Iran is Shia.
Hamas’s leader, Khaled Meshaal, who left Damascus for Qatar after falling out with the Assad regime, has often fought with Hamas’s military wing over the strength of the Iranian connection.
However, with the Sunni Arab world joining forces against Iran, led by Saudi Arabia and President Abdelfattah el-Sisi of Egypt, who are both hostile to Hamas, the Palestinian militant group has been left little option but to accept the Iranian largesse.
At the same time, Iran’s overseas operations arm, the Al-Quds force, led by its charismatic general Qassem Suleimani, has been consolidating a broad hold over the Middle East.
It is backing the Shia Houthi rebels fighting the internationally recognised government in Yemen, and actively supporting the Shia-dominated Iraqi government’s attempts to recapture the northern city of Tikrit, the former stronghold of Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, from Islamic State (Isil) fighters.
However, Iran may have been forced to pull back, at least in the latter case, senior diplomats say, adding there is growing evidence that the Iranians are overplaying their hand.
The Quds have been ordered to withdraw from Tikrit, even as it was being finally liberated last week. Gen Suleimani is said to have returned from the front to Tehran.
“Iran’s Shia leaders are trying very hard to increase their influence throughout the region at the expense of the Sunni regimes,” a senior Western security official said. “But there is a growing sense throughout the region that Tehran has overplayed its hand, and Iran now finds itself facing a backlash.”