Who are Hamas’s friends these days? It’s more complicated than you might think.


Back in 2007, Palestinian supporters of Hamas and Islamic jihad movements marched through Gaza City to protest against a Middle East peace conference being held in the United States because it did not include representatives of those groups. (Abid Katib/Getty Images)

Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, surrounded and cut off from much of the world, is forced to rely on significant outside help However, the Middle East is in a state of flux at the moment, with significant factors (most notably, a split over the role of Islamist political movements) meaning that traditional roles are not necessarily being played.

So, who exactly are its allies, and who exactly are its enemies?

This table shows, very roughly, how things stand right now for Hamas:


Of course, this table doesn't do full justice to some of the complexities of the situation, however, and a lot of countries haven't exactly made their position clear, preferring a degree of ambiguity that makes even vague categorization difficult. Further notes follow below.

Qatar

The oil rich state is believed to be one of the chief financial backers of Hamas (pledging $400 million to Gaza in 2012), and has harbored Meshaal since he fled Syria in 2012. Across the region it is known for supporting the Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, which has led to a number of rivalries with other powers, notably Egypt.

Turkey

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been very vocal in his criticism of Israel's military action in the Gaza Strip, even comparing the situation to Nazi Germany. Erdogan himself leads an Islamist government, and Hamas's political leader Khaled Meshaal made a trip to meet Erdogan in Turkey in early 2013

Jordan

Jordan was reported to have broken ties with Hamas last year, refusing entry in the past Hamas's Mashaal, apparently out of solidarity with Egypt and concerns about the power of Islamist groups in the region. There had been some tentative signs of rapprochement before the current fighting, though it has been relatively quiet since Operation Protective Edge began.

Iran

Despite a serious rift caused in recent years by Hamas's position on the Syrian war, Iran has recently shown signs that it is back to supporting Hamas, who they openly admitted arming during the 2008 Gaza war. On Tuesday, Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for a rearming of Hamas, saying that "the Muslim World has a duty to arm the Palestinian nation by all means.”

Syria

Once allies, Hamas broke ties with Syria when the Syrian Civil War started. Given his own conflict, Bashar al-Assad is no longer in a position to play a big role in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, however.

Hezbollah

Like their Shiite-allies Iran, the Lebanese Islamist group Hezbollah went through a cooling period with Hamas when the Palestinian group, like many Sunni groups, sided with the rebels against the Syrian regime. However, there are signs of a reconciliation. Hamas is reported to have asked the Lebanese group to join its war against Israel, and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has pledged support.

The Palestinian Authority/Fatah

Fatah, the political organization that dominates the Palestinian Authority, has long been at odds with Hamas, and only ceded control of the Gaza Strip after a short and bloody armed conflict in 2007. However, the two parties agreed to reconcile earlier this year and announced plans for a unity government. Since this conflict began, PA President Mahmoud Abbas has criticized Hamas for firing rockets into Israel, but also endorsed Hamas's own cease-fire demands.

Egypt

Egypt has long been the favored mediator in conflicts between Israel and Hamas, not only being one of the regions largest military powers but also sharing a key border with Gaza, and under Hosni Mubarak, the country was often criticized for publicly supporting the Palestinian line, but privately working with the Israelis. Now, under the new leadership of Abdel Fatah el-Sissi, there appeared to have been a shift towards outright opposition to Hamas, who were birthed from Egypt's own Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood (a group Sissi has banned). This shift can be seen well in the country's media.

Israel

Israel deems Hamas a terrorist organization, and pulled out of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority earlier this year when the group were accepted into a unity government. “I think the pact with Hamas kills peace,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with NBC. “If it moves forward, it means peace moves backward." Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States from 2009 to 2013, has argued that Israel must be allowed to "crush" Hamas.

Saudi Arabia

Driven by their own fear of Islamist movements, the Saudis designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terror organization earlier this year. While Hamas officials had hoped this wouldn't destroy their relationship, Iranian support for Hamas has also proved to be a problem. On Friday, King Abdullah criticized international silence over the situation in Gaza, labeling it a "war crimes against humanity."

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

The UAE has long fought against domestic Islamist movements, and has publicly supported Saudi Arabia and Egypt in their fight against the Muslim Brotherhood. The oil-rich country has pledged a large sum of money to help rebuild Gaza, however.

Islamic State

On the surface of it, the Sunni Islamist group Islamic State would seem like a logical partner for the Sunni Islamist group Hamas. In reality, however, the two groups offer quite different world views and the Salafist Islamic State views Hamas's support from Shiite Muslims like Iran and Hezbollah with suspicion. While there have been reports that Islamic State has infiltrated Gaza, Hamas officials have called these “lies and fabrications.”

Hamas and Israel are blaming each other for the collapse of a 72-hour cease-fire that lasted just 90 minutes. (Reuters)
Adam Taylor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. Originally from London, he studied at the University of Manchester and Columbia University.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read World
Next Story
Ishaan Tharoor · August 1