Skip to content
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

The Complex Dynamics between Iranian Proxies Hamas and Hizbullah

Filed under: Hamas, Hizbullah, Operation Swords of Iron

The Complex Dynamics between Iranian Proxies Hamas and Hizbullah
Two weeks after the Hamas attack on Israel, Secretary-General of Hizbullah Hassan Nasrallah (R) met with Secretary-General of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Ziyad al-Nakhalah (C), and Deputy Chief of Hamas’ political bureau Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut, Lebanon, on October 24, 2023. Оn January 2, 2024, Aruri was assassinated. (Press TV)

The tensions between Hamas and Hizbullah have become increasingly apparent, marked by differing strategic approaches and a lack of coordination in their response to the conflict with Israel.

While both are considered “resistance” movements backed by Iran, their priorities and methods often diverge, leading to criticism and potential strain in their relationship.

In the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip, Hizbullah’s support for Hamas against Israel was limited, reflecting a reluctance to jeopardize its own interests.

Hamas officials openly criticized Hizbullah for not engaging in a more comprehensive war against Israel, emphasizing the need for a united front in the face of shared adversaries.

Approximately three weeks after the outbreak of the conflict on October 7, 2023, Khaled Mashal, a senior Hamas official, publicly chastised Hizbullah for its restrained approach, stating that such actions do not align with the historical imperatives of the Palestinian cause.

As Israeli military pressure intensified on Hamas, the critique of Hizbullah was revived. In a January 15, 2024, interview with the Saudi channel A-Sharq, Hamas officials claimed that Hizbullah was caught off guard by the timing of the October 7 attack, even though there were purported secret plans for joint action.

Allegedly, the intention was to launch coordinated attacks from the south and north, with auxiliary forces entering from Syria to disrupt Israeli activities and force a withdrawal from the West Bank back to the 1967 borders, including east Jerusalem.

Hizbullah’s decision to engage more forcefully was attributed to the perceived gaps in Israel’s security, a conclusion drawn from the events of Operation “Guardian of the Walls” in May 2021.

The realization that military gains could be achieved through ground and rocket attacks, backed by Hizbullah’s precision missiles on strategic Israeli sites, prompted the planned offensive.

However, the lack of coordination with Hizbullah on the October 7 attack surprised the group.

Hamas officials suggested that Hizbullah’s decision to participate symbolically in the conflict was influenced by U.S. military support for Israel.

Faced with potential destruction, Hizbullah opted for a cautious approach and preferred withdrawal.

Hamas criticized Hizbullah for its reluctance, attributing it to concerns about U.S. military presence and potential damage to Lebanon.

Enter the Houthis

While Hizbullah engaged in limited clashes with the Israeli Defense Forces in southern Lebanon, Hamas expressed greater appreciation for the Houthis in Yemen, who, despite the geographical distance, actively challenged Israel through economic blockades and attacks on merchant ships.

Further strain emerged with Hamas accusing Hizbullah of security lapses in Beirut’s al-Dahiya neighborhood, leading to the elimination of senior Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri by Israeli forces. Hamas argued that Hizbullah did not adequately safeguard Arouri’s life.

These disputes may signal the beginning of a rift between the two organizations.

If Israel succeeds in destabilizing Hamas in the coming months, Hamas could hold Hizbullah responsible.

Although Hizbullah possesses superior military capabilities, its reluctance to engage in an all-out conflict with Israel, stemming from lessons learned in the Second Lebanon War, remains a point of contention.

In conclusion, Hamas and Hizbullah’s differing priorities and strategies have strained their relationship, raising questions about the extent of their collaboration against shared adversaries.

The dynamics between these two significant groups continue to evolve, influenced by regional developments and their assessments of the geopolitical landscape.