Gaza City: Iran has cut up to £15 million (Dh83.7 million) a month in funding for Hamas as punishment for the movement backing the uprising in Syria, the Palestinian Islamist group’s leaders have admitted.
The two once-close allies have also ceased military cooperation, effectively ending a warm relationship in which Tehran provided weapons, technical know-how and military training to Hamas fighters.
The rupture has been caused by Hamas’ refusal to toe the Iranian line by supporting President Bashar Al Assad, whose Alawite regime has a loose religious relationship to Iran’s ruling theocracy. Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, has sided with its Sunni co-religionists who are trying to unseat Al Assad, in common with other mainly Sunni countries such as Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Gazi Hamad, Hamas’ deputy foreign minister, frankly described relations with Iran as “bad”. Asked about Iranian funding, he said: “I can say it is not like the past. I cannot give you the exact amount. For supporting the Syrian revolution, we lost very much.
“I cannot deny that since 2006, Iran supported Hamas with money and many [other] things. But the situation is not like the past.” He added: “I cannot say there is military cooperation.”
While Hamas officials have previously said they would not retaliate on Iran’s behalf if Israel attacked the Islamic Republic’s nuclear facilities — citing disagreements over Syria — they have previously been coy about funding from a country that is Shiite and non-Arab.
Iran gave Hamas an estimated £13-15 million a month after its victory in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections — enough to cover its governing budget, said Dr Adnan Abu Amer, assistant professor of political science at Gaza City’s Ummah University.
Tehran still sends a “tiny amount” to maintain ties and keep its support of the Palestinian cause alive, he said.
But relations are all but severed. Hamas’ bureau in Tehran — long treated as a de facto embassy — no longer has a permanent representative and is run by a skeleton staff.
“The Iranian support for [Al] Assad was the kiss of death to the relationship,” said Dr Abu Amer, who is close to Hamas.
Ahmad Yousuf, an adviser to Esmail Haniya, Hamas’ prime minister in Gaza, said: “We never expected Iran, which talked about oppressed people and dictatorial regimes, would stand behind a dictator like [Al] Assad.”