AFP: Iran played a “big role” in Hamas’s seizure of Gaza from Palestinian security forces earlier this month, Palestinian intelligence chief Tawfiq al-Tirawi charged on Sunday. RAMALLAH, West Bank (AFP) – Iran played a “big role” in Hamas’s seizure of Gaza from Palestinian security forces earlier this month, Palestinian intelligence chief Tawfiq al-Tirawi charged on Sunday.
The Islamists swiftly dismissed the accusation as “lies”.
“According to our information, Iran has played a big role in what happened in Gaza. Dozens of members of Hamas have been trained in Iran, and Hamas smuggled in weapons through tunnels not to fight Israel but against the Palestinian Authority,” Tirawi told a news conference.
“The whole plan has been carried out in coordination with Iran, and Iran has been informed of every step,” he added.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas previously accused “foreign elements from the region” of orchestrating Hamas’s bloody takeover, but it was the first time that a senior official explicitly blamed Iran.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri retorted that “Tirawi’s accusations are lies”, while acknowledging that Hamas enjoys good relations with the Islamic republic as well as other Muslim states.
“It is known that Hamas has balanced relations with all Arab and Islamic countries,” he told AFP.
“Hamas is proud that it enjoys this strategic depth in the Arab and Islamic world at a time when Tirawi’s friends are vaunting their relations with the (Israeli) occupation and the United States.”
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit last week levelled similar accusations against Iran, charging that it had encouraged the Palestinian Islamist movement to seize the neighbouring Gaza Strip.
Iran hit back against the minister’s comments on Sunday, insisting that it, unlike Egypt’s Western allies and Israel, had been careful not to fan the factional conflict.
“It is surprising that some Arab countries ignore the Western countries, the United States and the Zionist regime… and point an accusing finger at us who have had the most responsible approach,” foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said.
Iran is one of the most vocal backers of the Islamic Resistance Movement and pledged millions of dollars in 2006 to help the Hamas government through a funding drought caused by Western aid cuts.
But Hosseini said Iran supports Hamas “politically and spiritually” and that the “humanitarian aid would be provided through channels that benefit all Palestinian people.”
Tehran has always insisted its support for Palestinian militant groups is moral in nature and does not extend to arming or training fighters.