On Monday, a high-ranking Hamas official called on Hezbollah to withdraw from Syria and focus on fighting Israel. Reports of a rift surfaced after a round of reconciliation talks between Hamas’s leadership in Lebanon and local Hezbollah politicians. Hamas’s reaction to the violence in Syria shows the deepening divide in the Arab world between mostly Sunni rebels and Shiites loyal to Bashar al-Asad. Both Hezbollah and Hamas help to comprise the self-proclaimed “axis of resistance” against a common enemy, Israel, but relations between the two terrorist organizations continue to deteriorate.
Hamas’s criticism comes amid Hezbollah’s growing prominence as Syria’s civil war continues into a second year. The Shiite organization based in Lebanon sent “hundreds of its elite forces” to the eastern Syrian town of Qusair earlier this month according to The Guardian. Government loyalists captured the strategic town, giving Damascus an important corridor to Homs and the Mediterranean coast. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah promised to continue fighting alongside al-Asad’s forces.
A funeral for fallen Hezbollah soldiers killed during fighting in Syria. (Photo: AP)
Hamas disavowed the al-Asad regime in early 2012 after the Syrian government targeted Sunnis. Hamas leader Khalid Mesh’al left Damascus for Qatar and other high ranking officials went to Cairo. In retaliation, Iran halted weapons shipments and decreased financial support for the Gaza based group. Previously, Iran paid up to $20 million to support 50,000 employees of the Hamas-controlled government. The number of Iranian-made missiles smuggled into Gaza has also decreased, Tehran has been one of Hamas’s main weapons provider, including long range Fajr-5 rockets used to strike deep inside Israel. According to Gazi Hamad, the Hamas Foreign Minister, “Iran has provided Hamas with money and ‘many other things,’ since our rise to power in 2006. But since our support of the Sunni revolutionaries in Syria, Hamas has lost very much.”
Hamas’s loss of Iranian, Syrian and Hezbollah support may, in fact, be the silver lining in the cloud for Israel emanating from the Syrian civil war