Iran Ceases Financial Aid to Hamas in Gaza, Official Claims

Iran has completely cut off its financial aid to the Palestinian militant group Hamas, a senior Hamas official claimed on Monday, according to Israeli media reports.

Since a rapprochement between the two last year after a rift emerged three years earlier over the Palestinian group's refusal to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, Tehran has been a financial backer of Hamas, who have controlled the Gaza Strip since elections in 2006, and their military operations.

Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard has transferred millions of dollars to the Palestinian group's military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam brigades, within the last year to finance Gaza's tunnel network and replenish rocket caches used against Israel during last summer's conflict, according to Western officials. However, Hamas's politburo chief Moussa Abu Marzouk, who is believed to currently reside in exile in Egypt, has now claimed that Iran's financial backing has dried up.

"All assistance has stopped—both civilian aid to the Gaza Strip and military assistance to Hamas," he was quoted as saying in an interview with Al Jazeera by a number of Israeli media outlets. "[Iran] greatly helped the resistance in Palestine; without this assistance it will be hard for us to cope."

"The relations between Hamas and Iran are not advancing in a direction in which the organisation (Hamas) is interested and aren't improving to the degree the organization wants in order to help the Palestinian issue," the official added.

The alleged termination of funds to Hamas contradicts recent comments by Iran's political elite following the landmark nuclear deal, agreed earlier this month with six world powers in Vienna. Last week, Iranian foreign minister Abbas Araqchi confirmed that the Shiite country would continue to arm its allies in the Middle East, which include Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah and another Palestinian militant group, Islamic Jihad.

"We have told them [the P5+1 world powers] in the negotiations that we will supply arms to anyone and anywhere necessary and will import weapons from anywhere we want and we have clarified this during the negotiations," he told Iranian state TV.

While Marzouk said that Hamas was still attempting to better ties with Iran, the decreased funding from the Islamic Republic comes during warming relations between Hamas, a Sunni Muslim group, and the Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia.

Last week, the Hamas leadership outside of the Gaza Strip, living in exile in countries such as Qatar and Turkey, visited Saudi Arabia for the first time in three years to discuss relations. The group's top political leaders held a meeting with King Salman in Mecca, in an attempt by the royal leader to pull the Sunni militant group away from Tehran's sphere of influence. Marzouk was one of the members of the Hamas delegation which travelled to Riyadh.

Ron Gilran, vice-president at the Tel Aviv-based geopolitical consultancy The Levantine Group, says that the cut in Iranian funding for Hamas is likely to be caused by the Palestinian group's recent rapprochement with Saudi Arabia, and "less linked" with the Iranian nuclear deal.

"This [rapprochement] has been going on for the last two to three months, it's a new policy of King Salman, getting close to elements in the region in order to block Iran's influence," he says. "However, I wouldn't say that there are no ties anymore. It's a game between two powers in the region for influence. I would view such comments as part of this rather than anything definitive."

A Hamas representative declined to comment.