A delegation of senior Hamas terrorists headed by Khaled Maashal, the group's Damascus-based political bureau chief, arrived early Sunday morning in Tehran for talks with Iran's top spiritual leader, according to Hamas official Izzat al-Rishq. The delegation will meet with Ayatollah Ali Khomeini and with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Hamas official told the Reuters news agency.
Mashaal, who visited Qatar last week, is being accompanied by five other Hamas officials on his visit to Teheran.
Hamas was closely connected with Iran and Syria during the IDF’s Operation ‘Cast Lead.’ Iran has been a main funder of the terrorist group, and has smuggled weapons into Gaza. The Islamic Republic has also vowed to replenish the group's depleted supply of missiles following its recent war with Israel.
An Iranian supply ship is currently being held up in Cyprus on suspicion of trying to deliver weapons to Gaza after arms were discovered on board during a search of the vessel last week at the entrance to the Suez Canal by American naval personnel.
The terrorist organization has stated that it would intensify its efforts to lift Israel’s blockade on the Gaza coast, which Egypt has assisted. Although Israel will not directly negotiate with Hamas since it does not want to legitimize the terrorist organization, ongoing negotiations have been brokered via Egypt.
Hamas considers Israel’s blockade, which it claims damages Gaza’s economy, as a form of collective punishment against the Arab residents of Gaza. The group cites the blockade as one of its reasons for not renewing the ceasefire agreement with Israel in December, which prompted the Gaza war.
Israel, however, states that the passageways into Gaza have been used by the Hamas to stock up with weapons, including long-range rockets, which have been fired into Ashkelon and Be’er Sheva. This past Saturday, the Hamas again broke the ceasefire by firing a Grad rocket into Ashkelon. The group repeatedly fired rocket and mortar attacks against southern Israel throughout last week, in violation of the ceasefire it declared on January 18, following Israel's declaration of a unilateral ceasefire and the end of Operation 'Cast Lead' in Gaza.