The new Gaza leader of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas said Monday it has restored relations with Iran and is gearing up for future hostilities with Israel.
Yahya Sinwar told reporters that Iran is now “the largest backer financially and militarily” of Hamas’s armed wing. It was his first meeting with journalists since taking up his post in February.
Sinwar said that with Iran’s help, Hamas is accumulating military power in preparation for a battle for “the liberation of Palestine.”
“The Iranian military support to Hamas and al-Qassam is strategic,” he added, saying the relationship had “become fantastic and returned to its former era.”
“Every day we build missiles and continue military training,” he added, saying that thousands of people are working “day and night” to prepare for the next conflict.
Iran was once Hamas’s largest backer, but relations cooled after Hamas refused to back Iran’s close ally Syrian President Bashar Assad in his country’s civil war.
Earlier this month, ahigh-level Hamas delegation traveled to Iran to attend the inauguration of President Hassan Rouhani, and to “turn a new page in bilateral relations” between the two sides.
It was the first visit to Iran by Hamas officials since the group elected new leadership earlier in 2017. The rapprochement between Hamas and Iran is reportedly being facilitated by the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, which is supported by Tehran.
During the Hamas delegation’s visit in Tehran earlier this month, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the Palestinian issue remained a top foreign policy priority for his government, which was “ready to put aside all disagreements [with Hamas] for the sake of supporting Palestine and the Palestinian people as well as the unity of the Muslim world.”
Hamas, the governing authority of the Gaza Strip, has a new leader - and one of his first tasks was repairing the organization’s relationship with their former backer Iran. New Gazan Prime Minister Yahya Sinwar appears to have had some success, and is reporting that Iran is once more the largest backer of Hamas’ military wing.
Sinwar, who took office in February 2017, spoke to journalists for the first time on Monday. He said that Iran is "the largest backer financially and militarily" of the military wing of Hamas, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. With Ira's help, Sinwar said, Hamas will "[develop] our military strength in order to liberate Palestine."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged on Monday that his government will never evacuate another settlement, a promise issued days after he met with a US delegation to discuss restarting the peace process with the Palestinians.
At an event celebrating 50 years of Israeli settlements in Samaria — the biblical name for the northern West Bank — Netanyahu told a crowd of thousands, “We are here to stay forever. There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel.”
“This is the inheritance of our ancestors,” he said. “This is our land.’
“Samaria is a strategic asset for the State of Israel,” the prime minister said. “It is the key to our future. Because from these high hills, the heights of Mount Hatzor, we can see the entire country, from one side to the other.”
He said that Israel had withdrawn from settlements in the past but received nothing in return.
"We’ve uprooted settlements. What did we get? We received missiles. It will not happen again,” the prime minister said, referring to Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. “To those who want to uproot what we’ve planted, [I say] we will deepen our roots.”
“Imagine that on these hills were the forces of radical Islam,” Netanyahu said that he tells world leaders. “It would endanger us, it would endanger you, and it would endanger the entire Middle East.”
Netanyahu told a crowd of several thousand that past experience showed that withdrawing from Jewish settlements had not furthered the cause of peace. “Communities were uprooted and what did we get? We got missiles. That will not happen again,” the prime minister said.