Iran General NewsIran gives Gazans aid, but bypasses Hamas

Iran gives Gazans aid, but bypasses Hamas

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Los Angeles Times: Already under pressure from the new military-led government in Egypt, the militant group Hamas took another public-relations blow Tuesday when Iran began distributing food aid to Gazans, but delivered the charity through Hamas’ rival, Islamic Jihad. The Los Angeles Times

By Rushdi Abu Alouf

GAZA CITY – Already under pressure from the new military-led government in Egypt, the militant group Hamas took another public-relations blow Tuesday when Iran began distributing food aid to Gazans, but delivered the charity through Hamas’ rival, Islamic Jihad.

Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, has seen its ties with Iran fray over the last two years, particularly after Hamas refused to back Syrian President Bashar Assad in that country’s civil war. Though Assad had long given exiled Hamas leaders refuge, Hamas political chief Khalid Meshaal left Syria last year after not supporting Assad’s crackdown against predominantly Sunni rebels.

The move strained Hamas’ ties with Iran, an Assad supporter that had also provided weapons to Hamas.

That’s created an opportunity for Islamic Jihad, another armed group that has presented a growing challenge to Hamas’ authority in Gaza. Instead of giving arms and money to Hamas, Iranians have largely shifted their support to Islamic Jihad.

On Tuesday, the Islamic Jihad Relief Society began distributing Iranian food aid valued at $2 million to Gaza residents during the holy month of Ramadan.

Dozens of men and women lined up in front of trucks carrying pictures of the Iranian flag.

Islamic Jihad officials said they planned to distribute food packages containing cooking oil, rice, sugar, canned food and school supplies to about 40,000 people.

The distribution comes as Gazans are facing shortages of fuel and other supplies due to the military coup in Egypt. Hamas had close ties with ousted President Mohamed Morsi, but the new military-led government has blamed Hamas for stirring unrest in the Sinai. It has sealed or destroyed many smuggling tunnels from Gaza to Egypt and restricted access through the Rafah border crossing.

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