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2017

The Operational Coordination between Hizbullah and Hamas


The much-publicized meeting between Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah and senior Hamas official Salah al-Aruri on October 31, 2017, in Beirut, reflects the two terror organizations’ growing cooperation against Israel with Iran’s approval.

Hamas’ al-Aruri and Hizbullah’s Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut

Hamas’ al-Aruri and Hizbullah’s Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut

The Hizbullah leader has become Iran’s point man as it builds up Hamas’ military power in the Gaza Strip.

Hizbullah and Hamas are not even trying to hide the cooperation between them. Hizbullah’s media outlets issued a picture of the meeting between Hizbullah’s secretary-general, Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah, and the new deputy chairman of Hamas’ Political Bureau, Salah al-Aruri.  

Al-Aruri, who is in charge of Hamas’ military activity in the West Bank, was forced to leave Turkey and then Qatar under Israeli and U.S. pressure. About four months ago he settled in the Dahiya neighborhood of Beirut, which is considered Hizbullah’s stronghold, along with a few dozen Hamas operatives.

According to senior Israeli security sources, al-Aruri is setting up a branch of Hamas in Lebanon that will be attached to Hizbullah’s headquarters.

Hizbullah and Hamas emblems

Hizbullah and Hamas emblems: guns and swords

In addition to coordinating Hamas’ activity in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, it appears that al-Aruri will be directing the activity of Hamas’ military wing in the Gaza Strip along with Hizbullah, which takes direct orders from Iran.

Hizbullah has diligently maintained a direct link with the Hamas military wing and its commanders, Muhammad Deif and Yahya Sinwar. It has done so despite the rift fomented in 2011 by Khaled Mashal, former chairman of the Political Bureau, with the Iranian leadership and with Syrian President Bashar Assad against the backdrop of the civil war in Syria.

Even after Hamas moved its headquarters from Damascus to Doha, Hizbullah retained its direct connection with the commanders of Hamas’ military wing in Gaza and continued to coordinate the transfer of arms consignments from Iran to Hamas.

Hizbullah also coordinated the movement of military-wing operatives from Gaza to Iran for training. That involved, for example, establishing the naval commando unit that Hamas decided to develop as a lesson from Operation Protective Edge and that is eventually intended to infiltrate Israel from the sea.

The Hamas military wing’s takeover of the movement’s leadership in the latest internal elections, and specifically the election of Sinwar, leader of the military wing, as leader of Gaza, has brought Hamas closer to Iran again. 

Twice in the last three months, al-Aruri visited Iran at the head of a Hamas delegation.

With his most recent visit on October 20, 2017, when he met with the Iranian leadership, Hamas-Iranian relations have been fully restored, and a new stage of strategic cooperation against Israel and the Trump administration has begun.

Al-Aruri also received a green light to continue Hamas’ reconciliation process with Fatah. The intention is to strengthen Hamas and increase its chances of taking over the West Bank as well.

Al-Aruri also talked with the Iranian leadership about possible ways to torpedo the new diplomatic plan that the Trump administration is putting together.

Hizbullah is meant to play a key role in this cooperation between Hamas and Iran. Nasrallah will be Iran’s headquarters in the field, able to direct the Hamas military wing because of his close ties with its leaders.

The fact that al-Aruri and his men have taken up residence in the heart of Dahiya indicates that he plans to work closely with Hizbullah to build up Hamas’ military power in Gaza.

It is against this backdrop that the much-publicized meeting between Nasrallah and al-Aruri occurred. They discussed the ramifications of the IDF’s destruction of the Islamic Jihad terror tunnel, the general situation in Gaza, and the issue of implementing the Palestinian reconciliation agreement along with its regional implications.

A statement issued by Hizbullah said that the two movements emphasize the need for “unity and solidarity in the face of Israel’s attacks.”

The Hizbullah secretary-general also telephoned Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to give condolences for the casualties in the terror tunnel destroyed by Israel on October 30, 2017, and the two discussed “defeating the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands,” as a statement issued by Hamas put it.

Meanwhile, Egypt, together with Sinwar, has managed to prevent Islamic Jihad from hitting back militarily against Israel. However, the incident of the terror tunnel near Kibbutz Kissufim has not come to its end.

The southern border remains tense. As of this writing, Islamic Jihad and Hamas operatives are still missing, believed trapped inside the tunnel. The higher the number of casualties, the harder it will be for Islamic Jihad to refrain from attacking Israel. It may still retaliate from Gaza, which could lead to an escalation.  

While Nasrallah was meeting with al-Aruri, Nasrallah’s deputy, Sheikh Naim Qassem, declared at a Conference of Clerics of the Resistance in Beirut:

Sheikh Naim Qassem

Sheikh Naim Qassem, Hizbullah’s deputy head

Israel has the ability to determine when the war will begin, but it does not have the ability to determine the results or how it will end. Israel should know that if it decides to launch a war, its home front and facilities will be exposed to the missiles of the resistance.

Presumably, in his meeting with Nasrallah, al-Aruri also discussed the idea of Hamas assuming a role in Gaza according to the model of Hizbullah’s role in Lebanon.

Hamas made a strategic decision to transfer civilian control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority without relinquishing its military power. It will then be free to invest resources in building up a large military force, like Hizbullah’s in Lebanon, for a future war with Israel.

Iran plans to put the state of Israel between the hammer of Hizbullah in the north, and the anvil of Hamas in the south, with tens of thousands of missiles and rockets pointed at it.

Hizbullah has already built up its missile force with Iran’s help, and now it is the turn of the Hamas military wing.

Although top Hamas officials deny that they want to emulate the Hizbullah model in Gaza and say they want to “achieve a political partnership with the Palestinian Authority on the issue of peace and war,” this is clearly fraudulent and aimed at establishing facts on the ground.

Hamas has no intention of dismantling its military wing or disarm; instead, the reconciliation process is meant to allow it to boost its military power further.

Hamas will receive help in that endeavor by Hizbullah, which at the same time is acting, with Iran’s approval, as a mediator between the new Hamas leadership and the Assad regime.

The new Hamas leaders want to reconcile with the Syrian regime. Renouncing the path of former Hamas leader Khaled Mashal, nemesis of the Syrian president, they say that during the dispute with Iran and Syria over the civil war and over moving Hamas’ headquarters from Damascus to Doha, they were in prison in Israel and uninvolved.

About Yoni Ben Menachem

Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center. He served as Director General and Chief Editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

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