Friday, March 16, 2012

Top Hamas official visits Tehran

A senior Hamas figure in Gaza, Mahmud Zahar, is visiting Tehran for meetings with top Iranian officials, media reported on Thursday.

Zahar's trip was taking place shortly after Gaza militants and Israel agreed a fragile truce that ended four days of deadly cross-border violence.

Zahar, who serves as Hamas's foreign minister, met his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, who voiced his country's support for the Palestinians.

Salehi condemned Israeli air strikes on Gaza as "savage attacks by the Zionist regime against the innocent Palestinian population," the official IRNA news agency reported.

"Support for the Palestinian population is part of our principles and religious beliefs and we are certain that the Palestinian people will triumph," he said.

Zahar, in return, thanked Iran for its "limitless support."

On Wednesday, Zahar met the head of Iran's supreme national security council, Saeed Jalili, and the leader of Iran's parliament, Ali Larijani, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Zahar's visit followed one by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh last month, who shared the podium with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on February 11 to commemorate the anniversary of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Israel and the United States consider Hamas to be an armed proxy of Iran able to strike Israel with Iranian-supplied rockets should the Islamic republic be threatened militarily.

On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu branded Gaza an "advance post for Iran," which he explicitly accused of arming, financing and training militants in the Palestinian enclave.

But Ahmed Yussef, a counsellor to the Hamas foreign ministry, earlier this month told AFP that "Iran does not need Hamas to respond to Israel in the event of an attack, because it has enormous military capabilities at its disposal, which allow it to act without us."


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