Daily Israel Report

Senior Hamas Leader Undecided on Attacking Israel Over Iran

Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar sends different signals when asked whether Hamas will attack Israel if it attacks Iran.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 3/8/2012, 6:14 AM

Mahmoud al-Zahar
Mahmoud al-Zahar
Reuters

A senior leader in the Hamas terrorist organization sent two different signals on Wednesday, when he was asked whether the group would attack Israel if it launches a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

First, Mahmoud al-Zahar denied the group would get involved and told the BBC, “We are not part of any political axis. If Israel attacks us we will respond. If they don't, we will not get involved in any other regional conflict.”

He also questioned Hamas’ ability to offer support to Iran from Gaza, if it wanted to.

“Don't exaggerate our power. We are still suffering from the occupation, the siege and two wars in recent years,” he said.

The remarks echo those made by Salah Bardawil, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, who told the British Guardian on Tuesday the terror group will not do Iran's bidding in any war with Israel.

“If there is a war between two powers, Hamas will not be part of such a war,” Bardawil told the newspaper and added, “Hamas is not part of military alliances in the region. Our strategy is to defend our rights.”

The same al-Zahar, however, later denied that he told the BBC that Hamas would not take any action in the face of an Israeli attack on Iran.

Speaking to the semi-official Iranian Fars news agency, Al-Zahar rejected the BBC report as unfounded and a lie.

“Retaliation with utmost power is the position of Hamas with regard to a Zionist war on Iran,” al-Zahar told Fars.

He rejected the possibility of any Israeli aggression against Iran, according to the report, but reiterated that Hamas will give a crushing response to not only the Zionists but also to “whoever helps them” in such an attack.

The Guardian noted in its report on Tuesday that Tehran has withdrawn its patronage of Hamas over its refusal to support Syrian President Bashar Assad during the uprising against him. Hamas recently confirmed its leadership has left its longtime base in Syria because of the crackdown on protests there.

Arab media reported last month that Hamas’ politburo chief Khaled Mashaal, fearing to return to Syria, set up shop in Qatar.

Adnan Abu Amer, a Gazan academic who specializes in Islamic movements, told the Guardian Iran has terminated its financial support worth $23 million a month to Hamas.

“Iran is very unhappy about Hamas and Syria, so it is punishing Hamas,” he said. “They have stopped funding. Hamas has other sources – the Gulf states, Islamic movements, charities – but all of these together are not comparable to $23m a month.”

Bardawil denied this sum, however, telling the Guardian “the money that comes from Iran is very limited. In the early days of the [Israeli] blockade [of Gaza], the money was very good, but it was reduced two years ago.” He added that the cut in funding “is not because of the Syrian revolution.”