Hamas to stay out of Israel-Iran fight

2012-03-07 22:38

Gaza City - Gaza's Hamas rulers said on Wednesday they would stay on the sidelines if war breaks out between Israel and Iran, easing a key Israeli concern and distancing the Islamic militants from their sponsors in Tehran.

The comments by Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum coincided with speculation that Israel might strike Iran to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons. Such concerns were heightened by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's tough rhetoric on Iran during his high-profile visit to Washington this week.

Israel believes Iran is trying to produce nuclear weapons, while Iran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes. President Barack Obama told Netanyahu at the White House that diplomacy and sanctions must be given more time.

Israeli military officials have said that in the event of Israel-Iran hostilities, Tehran's proxies on Israel's borders - Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon - could open fire at Israel. Israel's military intelligence chief has warned that Israel's enemies have about 200 000 rockets and missiles that could strike all parts of the country.

Asked about a possible Hamas attack on Israel, Barhoum said the Hamas arsenal is limited.

"Hamas weapons and the weapons of the Palestinian resistance, in general, are humble weapons that aim to defend and not to attack, and they are to defend the Palestinian people," he told The Associated Press. "That does not give us the ability to be part of any regional war."

In defence of Hamas' patron, he added, "The world shouldn't stand idly by concerning the Zionists' intention to attack Iran. This war is a danger to world peace."

Hamas has a long history of attacks on Israel, including suicide bombings and thousands of rockets and mortars fired from the Gaza Strip over the past decade. Hamas continues to smuggle weapons, including longer-range missiles, into Gaza through tunnels under its southern border with Egypt.

In its 24-year existence, Hamas has also stayed out of other conflicts, saying its sole purpose is to shake off Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands. Hamas does not accept Israel's existence.

Distanced from Syria, Iran

In recent months, Hamas has distanced itself from long time allies Iran and Syria, mainly over Syrian President Bashar Assad's brutal crackdown on regime opponents.

Iran repeatedly urged the Hamas leadership in exile, based in the Syrian capital of Damascus, to side publicly with Assad. Hamas refused, and its top leaders have left Damascus in recent months, seeking refuge in Qatar, Egypt, Turkey and other countries in the region.

At the same time, Hamas has been careful not to cut ties with Iran, since it still relies on financial support from Tehran. Hamas needs those funds to help maintain its government in the Gaza Strip, a territory it seized by force in 2007.

Hamas has largely observed an informal truce with Israel since suffering heavy losses during an Israeli military offensive in Gaza three years ago. The group does not want to provoke another round of heavy fighting, though it has done little to stop militants from smaller groups from firing rockets and mortars into Israel.

Hezbollah has been less clear on how it would respond to an Israeli strike on Iran. Last month, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said Iran would not ask Hezbollah to retaliate.

"There is speculation about what would happen if Israel bombed Iran's nuclear facilities," Nasrallah said at the time. "I tell you that the Iranian leadership will not ask Hezbollah to do anything. On that day, we will sit, think and decide what we will do."

In 2006, Hezbollah and Israel fought a 34-day war that killed about 1 200 people in Lebanon and 160 in Israel. Hezbollah fired nearly 4 000 rockets at Israel.

In Israel Wednesday, Netanyahu's national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, welcomed an upcoming round of talks between six world powers and Iran over its suspect nuclear programme. No date has been set.

Amidror said Iran can be prodded into concessions only by the threat of military action, and that there is a chance the talks might fail.

"Without a real military alternative, the Iranians will not make concessions in the talks," he said.

  • Fred - 2012-03-08 02:04

    The start of the end of that unholy alliance which has only harmed the Palestinians.

      Jameel - 2012-03-08 03:13

      They were harmed long before they even came about

      Fred - 2012-03-08 05:53


      Jaba - 2012-03-08 06:28

      Jameel is correct. The “Palestinian dream” was born in 1966. Their leaders harmed them way before Iran had any inspiration to go nuclear. The Palestinian Authority and later Hamas are still on the road to violence (not peace) with Israel, and thus they are still harming themselves. I still dream of the day a Palestinian Madiba could show them the way – that violence leads to violence – but peaceful negotiation will lead to an eventual peace –even if that journey is a long one.

      Fred - 2012-03-08 06:56

      Nonetheless, the alliance is harming them now too. There's a greater chance they'll see a peaceful future, becoming present, without it, I think.

  • Jaba - 2012-03-08 06:24

    Obviously Hamas will stay out – on the one hand Hamas hates Israel, on the other Hamas does not want to be nuked once Iran gets the bomb. Israel and Palestinian territories are as small as the Kruger National Park. If Iran ever used a nuclear weapon they would achieve their goal of mass destruction in Israel – however that would include wiping out the Palestinians, lots of Jordanians, Lebanese, Egyptians and Syrians. Lastly, nuclear weapons in the hands of crazy religiously inclined fundamentalists like the Ayatollahs is playing Russian roulette in the Middle East – They could go as far as sacrificing the Palestinian fro their wicked cause.

      Fidel - 2012-03-08 07:44

      There are no crazy religious fundamentalists running Iran. Iran is run by elites who run it first and foremost for their own benefit. Religion is a justificatory fig-leaf for what they do (as it is everywhere) - a way of keeping the masses on side. No one in the intelligence community believes that the Iranian mullahs have a death wish, nor would common sense suggest that they do. Knock it off.

      Africa21stcentury - 2012-03-08 08:01

      As someone mentioned, Fidel uses $50 words, but surely she is now getting a little carried away; ""Religion is a justificatory fig-leaf for what they do "" Excuuuuuuuuuuuuuuse me !!!!!!!!!!

      Fred - 2012-03-08 08:30

      Fidel, I understand from your messages on this website, that to you stoning women to death because they're attractive is not religious fundamentalism. However, to the freer, saner world it doesn't get more fundamentalist than that.

      Jaba - 2012-03-08 08:35

      Fidel the Ayatollahs are first and foremost religious, the well being for Iran is second on their list of priorities. This will not have been the first time that Muslim fundamentalists would have committed suicide in the name of religion, becoming a shahid or martyrs in a so called Jihad situation. There are unfortunately many examples through history of Muslims who have misinterpreted the Koran and believe that murder will bring them to Paradise with virgins and great happiness. If the Ayatollahs are this way inclined I am not sure - however what I do know is that planet earth doesn’t feel like using appeasement now to find out later where these Ayatollahs stand. The west doesn’t see suicide as an option. Israel might be target number one, but the EU, US and the rest of the west will be next.

  • Adam - 2012-03-12 18:43

    Hamas r they type of guys when thy say good morning its probably night time. dont think they have ever been truthful or smart enough to predict their own next move.

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