TEL AVIV – Senior Egyptian officials met Sunday with high-level representatives of the Hamas terror group at the behest of Saudi Arabia, the Times of Israel reported.
The meeting included the Deputy Political Bureau Chief of Hamas, Moussa Abu Marzouk, and Egyptian Intelligence Minister Khaled Fawzi.
Saudi Arabia reportedly arranged the meeting following accusations by Egypt that Hamas is supporting the Islamic State’s branch in the Sinai Peninsula as well as collaborating with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in regard to the June 29, 2015 assassination of Egyptian chief prosecutor Hisham Barakat.
Ahmed Yousef, a senior Hamas political leader, told the news site AlKhaleejOnline that Saudi Arabia seeks to repair damaged relations between Egypt and the Gaza-based terror entity.
“The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz, has through his contacts greatly helped ease the tense atmosphere between Hamas and Egypt,” Yousef told the news site.
Hamas has recently been seeking to shift its loyalties from Iran to the Saudis.
In January, Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal was reluctant to declare allegiance to Iran following Saudi Arabia’s execution of a Shi’ite cleric. Tehran’s offer to restore financial support for Hamas was allegedly contingent on such a declaration. Hamas, out of fear of losing support from Sunni states, refused to comply.
A month before, Breitbart Jerusalem reported that Mashaal had not taken up Tehran’s invitation for a formal visit to the Iranian capital, fearing a backlash from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar.
Mashaal met with Saudi king Salman bin Abdulaziz last July to discuss Palestinian unity and develop relations between Hamas and the kingdom, a Hamas source told Reuters.
Ties between Hamas and Iran have been frayed since the terror group condemned Iran’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and moved its headquarters out of the Syrian capital of Damascus.
A Hamas source told the news site alQuds that in Sunday’s meeting Hamas officials vehemently denied involvement in both IS’s activities in the Sinai and the Barakat assassination.
The Times of Israel reported that the Gaza-based terror group also downplayed its ties to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
“Though we are influenced by and emerged from the books, principles, and legacy of the Muslim Brotherhood, we do not use this relationship to harm Egypt. We are a resistance movement and we do not intervene in internal Egyptian affairs. The day will not come when we become part of the organizational structure of the Muslim Brotherhood,” the Hamas delegation told the Egyptians.
Hamas also promised to cooperate with Egypt in order to prevent “terrorists from infiltrating the Gaza Strip through the tunnels and taking refuge in it.”
Israel rejects Hamas’ declaration of innocence regarding the Islamic State. In February, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, head of Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories unit, said that IS militants entered Gaza through tunnels from Egypt in order to receive medical treatment. Mordechai said that, in return, the Islamic State supplies Gaza’s terrorist rulers with money and weapons.
Hamas categorically denied the allegations. However, on Sunday Breitbart Jerusalem reported that a source had confirmed the cooperation. But the source added that the IS leadership in Syria and Iraq is critical of ties between its Sinai branch and Gaza, saying, “Collaboration with Hamas is unacceptable and contravenes Sharia law, because Hamas’ demeanor is incompatible with the principles of our religion, and cannot be seen as Islamic.”