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Nuclear Deal Could Give Hamas Financial Windfall


JERUSALEM, Israel -- For Hamas, the nuclear arms deal with Iran portends financial and political windfalls it believes will strengthen its standing among other Iranian terror groups, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Anticipating the benefits of the deal, Hamas sent Musa Abu Marzouk to Lebanon last week to meet with Hezbollah general secretary and spiritual leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.

Meanwhile, Hamas spokesman Salah al-Bardawil said the recent visit of political chief Khaled Meshaal to Saudi Arabia didn't affect its deep ties with Iran.

Hamas will maintain relations with all those who financially, militarily, and spiritually support the movement, Bardawil said, Iran's semi-official FARS news agency reported.

"The visit of a delegation from this movement, including Khaled Meshaal, to Saudi Arabia and improvement of Hamas-Riyadh relations will not influence our ties with Tehran," he said, echoing statements by Gaza chief Ismail Haniyeh.

'Close and Intimate'

In March, Haniyeh told Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Hamas wanted to strengthen its ties with the Islamic Republic, despite the often sharp divide between Sunni Islamists (Hamas) and Shiites (Iran).

"The Palestinian nation and resistance is honored by its close and intimate relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran and is resolved to continue them powerfully," Haniyeh told Rouhani by phone, according to the report.

During the same month, senior Hamas member Mahmoud al-Zahar said the group has close ties with Iran and with other nations in the region, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

"The movement has good relations with Iran and it is persistent in maintaining these ties because Iran, unlike others, helps Hamas without expecting anything in return," al-Zahar said on the group's al-Aksa satellite television network. "The movement has good relations with Arab and Muslim states, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, as well."

For years, Iran provided arms, training and funds to Hamas in Gaza and elsewhere. That relationship faltered somewhat in 2012 when Hamas refused to back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and endorsed anti-government activists.

"I salute all the nations of the Arab Spring and I salute the heroic people of Syria who are striving for freedom, democracy and reform," Haniyeh said at an Egyptian mosque during a visit to Cairo, Reuters reported.

Bardawil also said, "The hearts of the Palestinian people bleed with every drop of bloodshed in Syria. No political considerations will make us turn a blind eye to what is happening on the soil of Syria."

Parting of the Ways

Then, when Egypt ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi last spring and elected former army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in his place, the budding relationship between Hamas and Egypt went south, largely due to Hamas support of Sinai-based terror cells.

Following Morsi's ouster, Israel strengthened ties with Egypt, supporting its battle against terrorists in the Sinai.

The Obama administration, for its part, withdrew support from longtime ally Hosni Mubarak during the so-called Arab Spring in 2010. Mubarak was forced to resign and the Muslim Brotherhood took over, helping to elect Morsi. A year later, Morsi was toppled by popular demand, with the backing of the military, as he sought to impose fundamental Islamic rule on all Egyptians.

El-Sisi began cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and other terror groups embedded in the Sinai Peninsula. He closed the Rafah border crossing, destroyed Hamas smuggling tunnels, and dug a huge trench along the border with Gaza, all designed to destroy Islamic terror groups, which flourished under Morsi.

Over the weekend, an ISIS-affiliated terror cell claimed responsibility for mortar attacks on two military checkpoints in the Sinai that killed at least five Egyptian soldiers and wounded several others.

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