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As Hamas Visits Its ‘Closest Friend’ Moscow, Questions Surround Russia’s Knowledge Of, Involvement In October 7 Hamas Attack: A Review Of Russia-Hamas Ties and Strategic Relationship

Introduction

Hamas’s surprise October 7, 2023 terror attack, in which over 1,400 were brutally murdered and another 241 (at last count) taken hostage, will go down in infamy. As Hamas leader abroad Khaled Mashal boasted on October 26 on Egypt’s Sada Elbalad TV, the Russians told him that this attack would be taught in military academies.[1]

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, everyone, including military experts on TV, were quick to comment on its primitivity, pointing to the use of bulldozers, trucks, and motorcycles to break through the border barrier,[2] and the use of motorized paragliders to bring in terrorists with automatic weapons[3] as well as dune buggies.[4]

But as the initial fog of war lifted, it became clear that Hamas did not just get lucky with this attack. It had been training for it for years,[5] including in Iran.[6] There are also unsubstantiated reports that Hamas received training by Russian forces – or even possibly by the Wagner group. Anonymous sources were cited as saying that some Wagner members had been involved in the military training of Hamas fighters, and that a company seeking applicants for positions “in Africa and the Middle East” had offered positions to other Wagner members.[7] Other reports suggests that some of the weapons used by Hamas on October 7 came from Russia,[8] and still other reports that Russia is providing Hamas with Western weapons captured in Ukraine.[9]


Hamas delegation, headed by Hamas political bureau head Isma’il Haniyeh, in Moscow, September 11, 2022 (Source: Thecradle.co/articles/hamas-delegation-lands-in-moscow-for-official-talks#google_vignette, September 11. 2022)

Russia’s support for a designated terrorist organization, Hamas, in its attack on Israel makes sense. Russia has no qualms about maintaining good relations with other state sponsors of terrorism, as indicated most recently by its strategic summit with North Korea in September.[10] It was also one of the first countries to accept the credentials of an Afghan Taliban envoy, in March 2022.[11] Russia also maintains a close alliance with Iran, which is Hamas’s main supplier of weapons and diplomatic support. It provides Iran with intelligence and weapons in Syria as well as “digital surveillance capabilities” to suppress internal dissent at home, and in return Iran gives Russia drones, artillery shells, and ammunition for use against Ukraine and has built a drone factory in Russia.[12]

A bonus for Russia in its alliance with Iran is a close relationship with Iran’s terror proxies. In recent years, it has had contacts, meetings, and more with the Houthis in Yemen, Hizbullah in Lebanon, and Shi’ite militias in Iraq.[13] It was also reported this week that the Wagner group, which is now controlled by Russian President Vladimir Putin, is planning to send air defenses to Hizbullah, which would complicate Israel’s ability to defend its cities from Hizbullah missile attacks.[14] Following the killing of Yevgeny Prigozhin, Russia lost the use of its own unofficial proxy to do its dirty work, but now Russia has access to Iran’s proxies.

Thus, Russian support for a Hamas attack on Israel, if merely tactical, is logical. As Sergey Mardan, a former Putin advisor who is now a Russian media propagandist, recently wrote on his Telegram channel: “This mess is beneficial for Russia because the globalist toad [i.e. the U.S.] will be distracted from [Russia’s war in] Ukraine and will get busy trying to put out the eternal Middle Eastern fire. Iran is our real military ally. Israel is an ally of the US. Therefore, choosing a side is easy.”[15]

Dr. Vladislav Inozemtsev, MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project Special Advisor and Founder and Director of the Moscow-based Center for Post-Industrial Studies, laid out a four-point explanation on reasons for Russian support of Hamas. He wrote:

“By attacking Israel – with or without Moscow’s advice or assistance – Hamas opened a new front against the West in what Putin believes is the ongoing World War III. This attack is beneficial for the Russian ‘national leader’ in several aspects.

“First, it leads to refocusing of the U.S. and European attention from Ukraine to Israel, and (as Putin hopes) to a decline in the Western assistance to Ukrainian army that may allow the Russians to stop Ukraine’s counteroffensive and recapture the strategic advantage.

“Second, Putin of course dreams of a new migration ‘earthquake’ that can send millions of refugees from the Middle East toward the borders of the European Union. It is widely known that Palestinians are not welcomed by their fellow Arab neighbors and would most probably seek asylum in Europe.

“Third, the Israeli ground operation may create a huge wave of support for ‘innocent civilians’ in Gaza adding to the ‘global South’s upheaval’ that Putin awaits, as he positions himself as the leading ‘anti-imperialist’ figure.

“Fourth, Putin wants to broaden the widespread confrontation with the West, hoping that the clash between Hizbullah and Israel may bring Iran into the expanding quarrel and therefore destabilize the entire region…”[16]

Still, much remains in question surrounding Russia reactions to Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel. Russia’s official response was not only slow in coming, but was notably muted and failed to explicitly condemn the attack. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in an October 9 daily briefing: “We believe that the situation should be brought to a peaceful resolution as soon as possible, as the continuation of such a spiral of violence is fraught with further escalation of the conflict.”[17] On October 11, President Vladimir Putin said only that both sides should “minimize or reduce to zero” civilian casualties.[18]

Russia – which on November 1 reportedly carried out its heaviest shelling of Ukrainian communities to date[19] but received little media attention for doing so – is continuing to benefit from the attack as the world’s attention has shifted from Ukraine. Even if it is not being said openly, some of the same governments that have supported Ukraine militarily, first and foremost the U.S., now could be moving Ukraine to the back burner and focusing on supporting Israel. Although NATO has promised that the war in Israel will not impact support for Ukraine,[20] for the U.S. this is less certain.[21]

A week after its attack on October 7, Hamas thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for his statement, saying: “[We] appreciate Russian President Vladimir Putin’s position regarding the ongoing Zionist aggression against our people and his rejection of the Gaza siege, the cutting off of relief supplies, and the targeting of safe civilians there.”[22]

Regarding accusations that Hamas had received support from Iran in planning and preparing for the October 7 attack, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated strongly that charges that Iran backs Hamas are “provocative,” adding that Iran is “demonstrating a very responsible, balanced position.”[23]

As a month has passed since the Hamas attack and more information has been revealed about Iran’s involvement in it, there is no longer any question that it provided Hamas with funding, weapons, and training.[24] It is also more likely that the Hamas attack was part of the growing Iran-Russia strategic partnership, more details of which will emerge over time.

Top Russian officials have been meeting with Hamas leaders – who are designated terrorist by the U.S. and other countries – for years, and there have been many such meetings in Moscow in the past two years in particular. The Russia-Hamas relationship began in 2006, with Putin’s congratulations to Hamas for its election victory in Gaza. Details about these meetings, and reviews on Hamas’s regular communications with Russia’s Foreign Ministry and the Duma are detailed in this report.

Hamas’s reciprocal relations with Russian government and military apparatuses go deep. As the Doha-based Hamas leader abroad Khaled Mash’al said, “Russia has benefited” from the October 7 attack “because we distracted the U.S. from them and from Ukraine… The Russians told us that what happened on October 7 would be taught in military academies.” Mash’al also said that this was Russia’s opportunity to abolish the American monopoly on the world. It should be expected that as the war continues, Hamas will continue to be supported by Russia.

This report highlights Hamas officials’ statements about the Hamas-Russia relationship, including in personal meetings, prior to and following the October 7 attack, as well as Hamas officials’ statements about Russia’s reaction to the attack, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Hamas-Russia relations overall.

Table Of Contents

  • Timeline Of Russia-Hamas Relations – March 2006-November 2023

  • In First International Visit Following October 7 Hamas Attack, Hamas Leaders Meet In Moscow With Top Russian And Iranian Officials, Telling Russian Deputy Foreign Minister They “Highly Value Putin’s Position And The Efforts Of Russian Diplomacy”

  • Hamas Leader Abroad Khaled Mashal: The Russians Told Us That Our October 7 Operation Will Be Taught In Military Academies

  • Khaled Mash’al: October 7 Paved The Highway Towards Removing Israel; Russia And China Can Do More To Help Us, This Is Their Opportunity To Abolish The U.S. Monopoly

  • Senior Hamas Official Ali Baraka on Russia Today: Russia Is Happy That America Is Getting Embroiled In Palestine – It Alleviates The Pressure On The Russians In Ukraine

  • Senior Hamas Official Ali Baraka Claims: “The Chinese Sent Envoys To Doha – And China And Russia Met With The Leaders Of Hamas”; One Day, Russia, China, And All America’s Enemies May Join The War And Make The U.S. A Thing Of The Past

  • Hamas Leader In Gaza Yahya Al-Sinwar: “We Are Certain That Our Coordination With [Russia] Will Be On A High Level”

  • Senior Hamas Official Moussa Abu Marzouq: Hamas Is Closely Monitoring Russia’s Military Activity In Ukraine And The Russia-West Conflict

  • Russia’s Ties During Ukraine War To Iran-Backed Designated Terrorist Groups Threaten Regional Security And U.S. Interests In The Middle East

  • Regular Russia-Hamas Contact During Russian Invasion Of Ukraine

  • Hamas Gives Extraordinary Access To Russian State TV With Tour Of Its Tunnels Underneath Gaza For Preparation For War With Israel

  • Syrian Organization: Iranian Cargo Plane Linked To The IRGC Has Landed At Russia’s Khmeimim Air Base In Syria

In First International Visit Following October 7 Hamas Attack, Hamas Leaders Meet In Moscow With Top Russian And Iranian Officials, Telling Russian Deputy Foreign Minister They “Highly Value Putin’s Position And The Efforts Of Russian Diplomacy”

A Hamas delegation led by the organization’s international relations chief Moussa Abu Marzouq – who is a U.S. Specially Designated Global Terrorist – was in Moscow on October 26, 2023, in Hamas’s first international visit since its October 7 attack. The delegation met with Russian officials, including Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who is also Putin’s special envoy to the Middle East. Bogdanov expressed Russia’s support for the rights of the Palestinian people. Hamas representatives said that they expressed to Bogdanov that they “highly valued Putin’s position and the efforts of Russian diplomacy.”


Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, and Hamas international relations shice Moussa Abu Marzouk, in Moscow on October 26, 2023 (Source: Hamas Telegram channel via Times of Israel, October 26, 2023)

This delegation is the third from Hamas to visit Moscow in the past year, and Marzouk has met regularly with Bogdanov and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Russian foreign ministry officials have been meeting with Hamas delegations since 2006.[25] Abu Marzouk stated that “we consider Russia to be a closest friend.”[26]

Hamas Leader Abroad Khaled Mash’al: Russia Has Benefited From Our October 7 Operation – And The Russians Told Us That It Will Be Taught In Military Academies

On October 26, 2023, on Egypt’s Sada Elbalad TV, Hamas leader abroad Khaled Mash’al, who is based in Doha, Qatar, discussed the international impact of the October 7 attack on an October 26, 2023 show on (Egypt). Providing insight into Hamas-Russia discussions on the impact of that attack, he said with a smile that the Russians benefited from it because it is distracting the U.S. from the war in Ukraine. He added that the Russians said that the attack would be taught in military academies.[27]

Khaled Mash’al: October 7 Paved The Highway Towards Removing Israel; Russia And China Can Do More To Help Us, This Is Their Opportunity To Abolish The U.S.’s Monopoly

Additionally, Mash’al told Turkey’s TRT Network in an October 31, 2023 interview that the October 7 Hamas attack had paved a “wide highway” towards the removal of Israel. He went on to point out that “we have friends in the world” and stressed: “I am also addressing Moscow and Beijing, Russia and China. Their political position is good. Their [veto] in the U.N., their political position… But these are superpowers. They can do more. They should build the determination… Enough of the [American] monopoly… This is an opportunity. Moscow and Beijing are striving for an international balance of power that will abolish [American] unipolarity. Well, this is your opportunity!”[28]

Senior Hamas Official Ali Baraka on Russia TV: Russia Is Happy That America Is Getting Embroiled In Palestine – It Alleviates The Pressure On The Russians In Ukraine

In an extraordinary interview from Russia on Russia Today TV on October 8, the day after the Hamas attack, senior Hamas official Ali Baraka said: “…There are Hamas members sentenced for life in the U.S… We demand that the U.S. free our sons from prisons. The U.S. conducts prisoner swaps. Only recently, it did one with Iran. Why wouldn’t it conduct a prisoner swap with us? After all, it is participating in this war. Biden, the highest authority in the U.S., declared that he stands with Israel against Hamas and the Palestinian people. Therefore, he is a partner to this aggression, he must pay the price… The Israelis are known to love life. We, on the other hand, sacrifice ourselves. We consider our dead to be martyrs. The thing any Palestinian desires the most is to be martyred for the sake of Allah, defending his land… Our allies are those that support us with weapons and money.

Baraka added, “First and foremost it is Iran that is giving us money and weapons. There is also Hizbullah, and the Arab and Islamic people who are standing by us. There are countries that support us politically. Even Russia sympathizes with us. Even the Russians sent us messages yesterday morning. They sympathize with us. Russia is happy that America is getting embroiled in Palestine. It alleviates the pressure on the Russians in Ukraine. One war eases the pressure in another war. So we are not alone on the battlefield.”[29]

Senior Hamas Official Ali Baraka Claims: “The Chinese Sent Envoys To Doha – And China And Russia Met With The Leaders Of Hamas”; One Day, Russia, China, And All America’s Enemies May Join The War And Make The U.S. A Thing Of The Past

Ali Baraka claimed in a November 2, 2023 interview posted on Spot Shot (Lebanon): “Today, Russia contacts us on a daily basis. The Chinese sent envoys to Doha, and China and Russia met with the leaders of Hamas.” He added: “All of America’s enemies in the region are consulting and getting closer, and the day may come when they join the way together, and turn America into a thing of the past.”[30]

Hamas Leader In Gaza Yahya Al-Sinwar: “We Are Certain That Our Coordination With [Russia] Will Be On A High Level”

In May 2021, less than a year before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, but around the same time it began building up its military presence on the Ukraine border, Hamas Leader in Gaza Yahya Al-Sinwar praised Russia and explained that in the future Hamas and Russia would be coordinating things at a high level: “We undoubtedly value the role played by Russia. Russia is an influential and significant international player. It has played a significant role in recent years. It definitely played a role in recent days. We believe that Russia should play an even more active and positive role. Russia can play a very significant role in the Palestinian scene, and with regard to the conflict in the region. We are certain that our coordination with them will be on a high level, in the coming days, Allah willing.”[31]

Senior Hamas Official Moussa Abu Marzouq: Hamas Is Closely Monitoring Russia’s Military Activity In Ukraine And The Russia-West Conflict

On June 19, 2022, a conference was held at Al-Umma University in Gaza under the title “Palestinian Sovereignty, the Strategic Variables and Future Paths.” The speakers at the conference included Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh, who is a U.S. Specially Designated Global Terrorist,[32] along with political bureau member Moussa Abu Marzouq and other officials. In their speeches they addressed the changes taking place in the world and the region, with focus on the war in Ukraine. They assessed that, after this war, America is likely to lose its global hegemony, resulting in a multipolar world order. In light of this, the Hamas officials stressed the importance of opening up to America’s rivals, Russia and China, and of forming strategic alliances with all forces that support the resistance.[33]

Discussing the Russia-Ukraine war, Haniyeh said: “This is the broadest and most significant war in the struggle between the world’s camps since the end of WWII.’ Stressing that ‘after this war the world will no longer be the same,’ he added: ‘It will undoubtedly become a multipolar world, and the currently prevailing unipolar era in international and global policy will end. This will certainly be a very important change, and it will impact both our Arab and Islamic region and our [Palestinian] cause and our struggle with the occupation.'”

Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouq also discussed the importance of Russia. Stating that Hamas maintains an array of foreign relations in its battle for liberation and return, he said that, as a liberation movement, it is monitoring developments in the world order, particularly Russia’s military activity in Ukraine and the Russia-West conflict, as well as the possibility of a move to a new world order curtailing the absolute hegemony of the U.S., from which Israel draws its power.


“Palestinian Sovereignty, Strategic Variables, and Future Paths” conference logo (Source: Uou.edu.ps, June 19, 2022)

Russia’s Ties During Ukraine War To Iran-Backed Designated Terrorist Groups Threaten Regional Security And U.S. Interests In The Middle East

In an extensive report from June 2023, titled “Russia’s Wartime Ties To Iran-Backed Designated Terrorist Groups Threaten Regional Security, U.S. Interests In Middle East,”[34] MEMRI Research Fellow Matt Schierer documents Russia’s wartime contacts with Iran-backed designated terrorist groups across the Middle East, including Hamas, Lebanese Hizbullah, Iraq’s Al-Nujaba’ Movement and Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haqq, as well as non-designated Iran-backed groups such as the Badr Organization and Yemen’s Houthis. A review of Russia’s historical relations with these Iranian proxies are also provided for context where appropriate.

The report detailed how support for Iran-backed terrorist groups has long constituted part and parcel of Russia’s Middle East strategy under President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin’s longstanding contact with Iranian proxies contrasts with U.S. policy – which seeks to isolate such groups on the international stage – and therefore positions Moscow to exert counterinfluence vis-à-vis Washington in various regional conflicts. Russia’s consistent recognition of these groups as legitimate political actors also undermines U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

For example, in March 2006, high-level representatives of Hamas visited Moscow at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin following the group’s victory in the Palestinian legislative elections.[35] The trip marked the first for Hamas outside of the Islamic World and conferred a veneer of international legitimacy for the group, which at the time openly committed itself to the “violent destruction of Israel.”


Hamas leaders Khaled Mash’al (bottom right), Mousa Abu Marzouk (bottom center), and Muhammad Nazal (bottom left) attend a news conference with their bodyguards behind them, in Moscow (source: Rerl.org/a/1066348.html, March 3, 2006)

Indeed, in remarks announcing the visit, Putin affirmed that Russia had “never called Hamas a terrorist organization,” and stressed that Moscow would not “burn bridges” with Hamas, given the latter’s political victory through a “democratic and legitimate election.”[36] The Russian invitation also chaffed U.S. designs to isolate Hamas in light of the group’s violent policy toward Israel, signaling Moscow’s willingness to pursue at times a policy of divergence with the U.S. in the Middle East. Russia has since held regular meetings with Hamas, receiving the terrorist group’s delegates in Moscow. Hamas also maintains a representative to Moscow.

Regular Russia-Hamas Contact, Including Visits, Since Russian Invasion Of Ukraine

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russian officials have regularly met with senior Hamas representatives, despite their U.S.-designated terrorist status. On May 4, 2022, a delegation of Hamas representatives led by the group’s head of international relations, Musa Abu Marzouq, visited Moscow, where they were received by Russian Mufti Rawi Ayn Al-Din, the chairman of the Council of Muftis and head of the religious department of the Muslims of Russia. The Hamas delegation also included two members of the group’s political bureau, Fathi Hammad, who, like Abu Marzouq and Haniyeh, is a U.S. Specially Designated Global Terrorist,[37] and Hussam Badran, as well as Hamas’ representative to Moscow.[38] During the meeting, Ayn Al-Din reportedly affirmed the support of Russian Muslims for the Palestinian people and noted his organization’s close monitoring of the situation in Jerusalem.


May 4, 2022: Ayn Al-Din (second from right) receives a Hamas delegation led by Marzouq and Badran (left)(second from left) in Moscow.

On August 7, 2022, Hamas political bureau head Ismail Haniyeh spoke on the phone with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Representative to the Middle East and Africa Mikhail Bogdanov. During the call, the two Russian officials reportedly discussed “Zionist aggression against the Gaza Strip and the need to immediately stop it, as well as continuing violations of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque,” according to a communique issued by Hamas.[39]

September 2022: In Moscow, Hamas Delegation Meets With Lavrov And Bogdanov, And Russian Parliamentarians

A month later, on September 10, 2022, Haniyeh was in Moscow meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Bogdanov. He was accompanied by a delegation of Hamas representatives which included Hamas deputy chief Saleh Arouri, Marzouq and political bureau member Maher Salah.[40] Both Arouri and Salah were designated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in September 2015 for providing financial support to Hamas.[41]

According to a Hamas statement, the Hamas delegation raised the point that “U.S. hegemony over the global system has harmed the Palestinian cause” and expressed Hamas’ position that “changing the international system to a multipolar system in accordance with fair foundations will be in the interest of our people and cause.” The Hamas representatives also reportedly expressed the group’s rejection of “American attempts to integrate the Zionist entity [Israel] into the region.”

Additionally, Haniyeh presented Lavrov with a letter addressed to President Putin during the visit. In a later interview with the Al-Aqsa satellite channel, Haniyeh’s media advisor, Tahir Al-Nono, stressed the letter’s significance and the high-level delegation’s visit at large. Al-Nono noted that the “timing of the visit at this sensitive time when Russia is preoccupied with the ongoing war between it and Ukraine and political developments in the region are evidence of the international influence of the Palestinian cause in general and Hamas in particular.”


September 10, 2022: Haniyeh (right) presents Lavrov (left) with a letter addressed to President Putin in Moscow in the presence of Marzouq (middle).

Hamas Statement Following The Meeting: All Negotiations With Israel Have Failed; “Resistance” Is The Only “Realistic” Option

In a statement issued after the meeting, Hamas emphasized that the delegation had informed the Russian officials of “the Israeli violations” against the Palestinian people and had stressed the Palestinians’ right to “resist the occupation by every possible means, until liberation and return [are achieved].” They also stressed the Palestinian people’s right to all its natural resources, “especially the natural gas” (an allusion to the gas field off the Gaza shore), and decried “the robbing of the Palestinian and Lebanese resources by the [Israeli] enemy.” They expressed their opposition to “the U.S. attempts to integrate the Zionist entity in the region” (a reference to the normalization agreements between Israel and Arab countries). The statement said further that Hamas “is working to strengthen its ties with its Islamic and Arab surroundings and with influential international elements that support our people,” and added: “The hegemonial status of the U.S. in the world order has harmed the Palestinian cause, and we believe that the shift to a multipolar world order based on just principles will benefit our people and our cause.”[42]


Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov (center) and Hamas delegation members (from right to left) Salah Al-‘Arouri, Isma’il Haniyeh, Moussa Abu Marzouq and Maher Salah (Source: Hamas.ps, September 12, 2022)

Haniyeh’s media advisor Taher Al-Nounou said that Haniyeh had presented Lavrov with a letter for Russian President Vladimir Putin.[43] According to Hamas sources, the letter expressed support for Russia’s foreign policy, especially in the context of the war in Ukraine and the conflict with the West, and stressed the ‘common interests’ of Russia and Hamas. It also accused Israel of harming Russia’s national interests and of targeting Russia’s allies in the Middle East.[44]

According to Al-Nounou, the delegation emphasized to Lavrov “the [Palestinians’] right to wage [armed] resistance, which is the realistic way to oppose the Israeli occupation, especially in light of the failure of the negotiation processes.” Al-Nounou urged Russia to increase its involvement in promoting the Palestinian cause “so as to end the American monopoly over this issue,” and noted that “the unipolar [world] order has harmed international politics and the Palestinian cause.”[45]

The day after the meeting with Lavrov, the Hamas delegation met with Leonid Slutsky, chair of the International Affairs Committee in the State Duma (Russia’s lower house of parliament), and with Grigory Karasin, his counterpart in the Federation Council (the Russian senate or upper house of parliament). According to a statement on the Hamas website, the delegation stressed to these officials “the strategic importance of [Hamas’] ties with Russia, in light of [the latter’s] regional and international influence, and of continuing the consultation on various issues.”[46]


The Hamas delegation in meetings with Russian officials Leonid Slutsky (left) and Grigory Karasin (right) (Source: Hamas.ps, September 13, 2022.

Abu Marzouq, In Moscow, Discusses “Palestinian Issue” – March 2023

On March 17, 2023, Marzouq, who was accompanied by Hamas political bureau member Izzat Al-Risheq and the Hamas representative to Moscow, were received at the Russian Foreign Ministry by Bogdanov, where they reportedly held discussions about the most recent developments in the “Palestinian issue, especially the escalation of crimes by the right-wing extremist Zionist government [of Israel] and colonizers in the occupied West Bank and what it represents in terms of a threat to the region’s security and stability.”[47] According to a Hamas statement, during the meeting Bogdanov expressed Russia’s “position in support of the Palestinian people.”

 
March 17, 2023: Bogdanov (center) receives Al-Risheq (left) and Marzouq (right) in Moscow.

The announcement on the Russian Foreign Ministry website stated that during the meeting, Bogdanov had stressed to the delegation members Russia’s support for “a just resolution of the Palestinian problem based on the relevant U.S. and Security Council resolutions,” and Russia’s willingness to help broker an intra-Palestinian reconciliation and a merging of the Palestinian factions “based on the PLO [political] plan.”[48]

A source told the Russian news agency Islamnews.ru that as part of their visit to Russia, members of the Hamas delegation will also meet with members of parliament, and that talks focused on Russia’s growing involvement in the Middle East and its efforts to stop the U.S. from maintaining its monopoly on “resolving the Middle East [conflict]” – i.e. the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.[49]

Russian state media cited statements by Hamas delegation leader Moussa Abu Marzouq expressing anti-U.S. and anti-West rhetoric and support for Russian foreign policy. For example, after meeting with Foreign Minister Bogdanov, Abu Marzouq called Russia “one of the most important supporters of the actualization of the Palestinian peoples’ rights to self-determination and independence.” According to him, this visit “differs from past” Hamas delegation visits to Russia, because the “[Special] Military Operation in Ukraine” – the Russian government’s term for the war – “has aroused unique confusion in the world and the international system.”[50]

Hamas: We Are Pleased With The Visit, Which Was An Opportunity For Consultation And In-Depth Discussion With The Russians

According to a report in the Russian media, Haniyeh said upon concluding the visit that the delegation was “pleased” with it and that it had yielded “decisions on a number of Middle East issues.”[51] Haniyeh made similar remarks to the Russia Today channel in Arabic, stating that the meeting with FM Lavrov and his deputy Bogdanov had been an opportunity to consult with the Russians and engage in an in-depth discussion of various issues, such as the intra-Palestinian reconciliation, the character of the conflict with Israel and developments in the region and the world. He added: “We gave Mr. Lavrov a special letter from myself to Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is the first letter of its kind that will reach him directly from us. The letter deals with special issues that will be discussed in the future [with the Russian foreign ministry].”[52]


Haniyeh in interview on Russia Today (Arabic.rt.com, September 15, 2022)

Russian Media Reports On The Visit: Hamas Is “Moderate” And “Pragmatic”

Reports about the visit in the Russian media expressed support for Hamas, describing it as “moderate” and “pragmatic” and its leaders as “statesmen” who are “open to dialogue.”[53]

Senior Hamas Officials Speak On Phone With Bogdanov, Host Russian And Other Officials In Doha – April 2023

On April 7, 2023, Marzouq spoke on the phone with Bogdanov regarding “Zionist aggression against the Gaza Strip and Lebanon,” a Hamas communique reported.[54] A month later, on May 3, 2023, Marzouq met with Bogdanov at the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow.[55]


May 2, 2023: Marzouq (left) with Bogdanov (right) at the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow.

On April 13, 2023, Hamas held a festive iftar (evening meal at the close of the daily Ramadan fast) in Qatar’s capital Doha for some 30 diplomats from Arab and Islamic states and several “friendly non-Arab countries,” as well as Qatari ministers and MPs. The event, which Isma’il Haniyeh described as “the first of its kind,” took place in Doha’s Diplomatic Club and reflects Qatar’s support of Hamas, alongside other terrorist organizations.[56] Qatar hosts Hamas leaders in its territory, provides the organization with financial aid and essentially backs Hamas in its struggle against Israel.[57]

The event included a reception that included a prayer and a political speech by Isma’il Haniyeh Photos from it, which were posted to social media, show some of the diplomats who were present, among them Iranian Ambassador to Qatar Hamidreza Dehghani Poudeh,[58] Turkish Ambassador to Qatar Mustafa Goksu,[59] the ambassador of the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Mohammad Na’eem,[60] and Russian Ambassador to Qatar Dmitry Dogadkin.[61] The Al-Arabi Al-Jadid daily noted that the event was also attended by “a security advisor from a large European country,” and that the Palestinian Authority’s ambassador to Qatar, Munir Ghannam, was not present.[62]


Isma’il Haniyeh with Qatari officials and the ambassadors of Russia, Iran and Turkey (Facebook.com/TCDoha, April 14, 2023). Isma’il Haniyeh with Russian Ambassador to Qatar Dmitry Dogadkin (Facebook.com/profile.php?id=100041660296765, April 13, 2023)

Hamas Leaders Have Met With Russian Leaders In The Past As Well

Hamas officials have met with Russian leaders on many occasions in the past. Among them is Khaled Mash’al, who visited Moscow in February 2010. His first official visit to Moscow came four years before that, in March 2006.[63]


Mash’al, left, shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on February 8, 2010 (source:NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images)

Hamas Gives Extraordinary Access To Russian State TV With Tour Of Its Tunnels Underneath Gaza For Preparation For War With Israel

On January 14, 2023, Russia Today aired a report about the Palestinian Al-Mujahideen Brigade operations in Gaza that highlighted the group’s rocket manufacturing and tunnel operations. Group spokesman “Aba Ana” called  the issues of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons a “time bomb,” and added that if the “Zionist enemy continues with its transgressions in these issues, the situation in occupied Palestine will explode.” The Russian journalists were given access to the group’s tunnels.[64]

Syrian Organization: Iranian Cargo Plane Linked To The IRGC Has Landed At Russia’s Khmeimim Air Base In Syria

The close cooperation between Russia and the IRGC, which reportedly worked with Hamas to plan the October 7 attack,[65] can be seen in a report by the Syrian opposition organization Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in the UK, saying that on October 15, 2023, an Iranian cargo plane linked to Mahan Air airlines which is affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), has landed at Russia’s Khmeimim Air Base on the Syrian coast instead of at the Aleppo international airport where activity was stopped following the October 14 Israeli attack on it.[66] This is the first time an Iranian plane has landed at the Russian base.[67]

The report did not provide details on the cargo carried by the Iranian plane. However, Mahan Air is sanctioned by the U.S. for transferring fighters, weapons, and equipment for the IRGC Qods Forces, Hizbullah, and the Syrian regime.[68]


A Mahan Air plane (Twitter.com/MahanAirlines, October 15, 2023)

This report is additional evidence of Russia-Iran cooperation, as also indicated in an October 2, 2023 report in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Jarida. According to that report, Russia and Iran have reached an agreement under which Hizbullah will transfer its old equipment to Arab tribes in Eastern Syria and also to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine, in exchange for Russian assistance in transferring advanced Iranian weaponry to Hizbullah via Syria.[69]

“We stand united with Russia in the struggle against U.S. hegemony. We very much want Russia’s special military operation [i.e., the war in Ukraine] to eventually precipitate a shift in the world order, so that the unipolar world led by the U.S. will be replaced by a truly multipolar world… All of the Middle East countries would like America’s involvement in the region to decrease. America’s policy is brutish, and there are plenty of examples of this. Suffice it to examine what has happened in several Arab countries like Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Syria. We Palestinians have also suffered from the American [policies]… Another example is the sanctions imposed by the Americans on Russia in an attempt to undermine its international positions. We therefore stress our complete solidarity with Russia in confronting these sanctions…”[70]

* Steven Stalinsky, PhD, is MEMRI Executive Director; Y. Yehoshua is MEMRI Vice President for Research; S. Schneidmann is a Research Fellow at MEMRI. 

 

[2] Washingtonpost.com/world/2023/10/27/hamas-attack-israel-october-7-hostages, October 27, 2023.

[3] Sky.com/video/israel-hamas-fighters-appear-to-paraglide-across-border-in-released-footage-12978986, October 7, 2023.

[4] Nypost.com/2023/10/07/hamas-terrorists-paraglide-into-israeli-territory, October 7, 2023.

[6] Wsj.com/world/middle-east/hamas-fighters-trained-in-iran-before-oct-7-attacks-e2a8dbb9, October 25, 2023.

[8] Jpost.com/israel-news/politics-and-diplomacy/article-768963, October 18, 2023.

[9] Kyivindependent.com/ukraine-war-latest-intelligence-says-russia-gives-hamas-weapons-captured-in-ukraine, October 10, 2023.

[10] Npr.org/2023/09/13/1199190066/russia-north-korea-putin-kim-jong-un-summit, September 13, 2023.

[11] Rferl.org/a/moscow-accredits-afghan-taliban-diplomat/31779443.html, March 31, 2022.

[12] Wsj.com/articles/iran-russia-ukraine-israel-hamas-vladimir-putin-military-aid-6b9ed2f5?st=i3n0ig4nh78am5l&reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink, November 2, 2023.

[13] Mei.edu/publications/russias-growing-ties-iran-aligned-militia-groups, March 26, 2021; Wsj.com/articles/iran-russia-ukraine-israel-hamas-vladimir-putin-military-aid-6b9ed2f5?st=i3n0ig4nh78am5l&reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink,

[14] The Journal reported Thursday that the U.S. has intelligence that Russia’s Wagner mercenary group is planning to send air defenses to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah is one of Iran’s proxy militias and has threatened to open a second front against Israel. The air defenses would complicate Israel’s ability to defend its cities from Hezbollah’s missile attacks.

[15] Euronews.com/2023/10/25/how-much-does-russia-stand-to-benefit-from-turmoil-in-the-middle-east, October 25, 2023.

[17] Washingtonpost.com/world/2023/10/09/russia-hamas-israel-iran-ukraine, October 9, 2023.

[18] Cnn.com/middleeast/live-news/israel-hamas-war-gaza-10-11-23/h_1ed7c181472f984dd597cd40f41a56f8, October 12, 2023. The Russian Foreign Ministry said: “Russia is gravely concerned over a sharp escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.” Washingtonpost.com/world/2023/10/09/russia-hamas-israel-iran-ukraine, October 9, 2023.

[19] France24.com/en/europe/20231101-russia-shells-more-than-100-ukrainian-settlements-in-24-hours, November 1, 2023.

[20] Msn.com/en-us/news/world/events-in-israel-will-not-affect-natos-support-for-ukraine-stoltenberg/ar-AA1ib9fb, October 13, 2023.

[21] Cnn.com/2023/10/23/politics/house-aid-ukraine-israel/index.html, October, 23, 2023;

[22] Cnn.com/middleeast/live-news/israel-news-hamas-war-10-14-23/h_339b05e264a380bc095666c481882d72, October 14, 2023.

[23] I24news.tv/en/news/israel-at-war/1697717492-russia-s-controversial-position-in-israel-hamas-war; English.almayadeen.net/news/politics/russian-fm-slams-blaming-iran-for-everything-as-provocative, October 19, 2023.

[24] Wsj.com/world/middle-east/hamas-fighters-trained-in-iran-before-oct-7-attacks-e2a8dbb9, October 25, 2023.

[25] Theguardian.com/world/2023/oct/26/hamas-delegation-travels-to-moscow-for-talks-on-foreign-hostages-in-gaza,, Timesofisrael.com/moscow-hosts-hamas-delegation-and-irans-deputy-fm-prompting-israeli-outrage, October 26, 2023.

[26] Timesofisrael.com/hamas-said-to-tell-moscow-its-looking-for-8-russians-among-hostages-will-free-them, October 28, 2023.

[32] Media Note, U.S. Department of State, January 31, 2018.

[36] Aljazeera.com/news/2006/2/9/putin-to-invite-hamas-to-moscow, February 9, 2006.

[37] Media Note, U.S. Department of State, September 16, 2016.

[38] Telegram, hamasps, May 4, 2022.

[39] Telegram, hamasps, August 7, 2022.

[40] Middleeasteye.net/news/hamas-haniyeh-visits-russia-high-level-delegation.

[41] Press Release, U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 10, 2015.

[43] Hamas.ps, September 13, 2022.

[44] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), September 17, 2022.

[45] Aljazeera.net, September 14, 2022.

[46] Hamas.ps, September 13, 2022.

[47] Telegram, hamasps, March 17, 2023.

[49] Islamnews.ru, March 16, 2023.

[50] Ria.ru, Sputnikarabic.ae, March 18, 2023.

[51] Hamas.ps, September 14, 2022.

[52] Arabic.rt.com, ria.ru, September 14, 2022. The report added that Haniyeh had welcomed Russia’s positions on “settling the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

[53] Pnp.ru, September 15, 2022; Tatar-inform.ru, September 14, 2022.

[54] Telegram, hamasps, April 7, 2023.

[55] Telegram, hamasps, May 3, 2023.

[56] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 10576 Hamas Hosts Festive Iftar Dinner For Diplomats In Qatari Capital; Guests Include Ambassadors Of Iran, Taliban, Turkey, Russia, April 25, 2023. Hamas was designated by the U.S. as a terror organization in 1997. State.gov/foreign-terrorist-organizations. On Qatar’s support of terrorism, see MEMRI Daily Brief No. 152, Cut Off Qatar, March 4, 2018; Daily Brief No. 148, Is Gaza In Need Of Qatar’s Aid?, January 29, 2018; Daily Brief No. 146, Qatar, The Emirate That Fools Them All, And Its Enablers, January 18, 2018.

[57] It should be mentioned that during the 2021 round of fighting between Hamas and Israel in Gaza, while Qatar was involved, along with the U.S., Egypt and other countries, in attempts to mediate a ceasefire between the sides, a mass rally in support of Hamas was held in Doha with the participation of Qatari officials. See Inquiry & Analysis No. 1576, As Qatar Mediates Between Israel And Hamas, It Holds Mass Rally For Hamas In Doha Supporting Armed Struggle And Jihad Against Israel – Participants Included Hamas Political Bureau Head Isma’il Haniyeh, May 21, 2021. The Qatari press publishes many articles in support of Hamas and terror against Israel. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 10452, Al-Jazeera Presenters, Journalists In Qatari Press, Qatar-Backed Muslim Clerics: Terrorist Attack Near Jerusalem Synagogue Was ‘Brave Act’ Of ‘Legitimate Resistance,’ Its Perpetrator Is A ‘Hero’, February 1, 2023; Special Dispatch No. 9316, Article On Al-Jazeera Website: Ramadan, ‘Month Of Jihad And Victories,’ Is The Season Of Palestinian Armed Operations, May 3, 2021; Inquiry & Analysis No. 1634, Antisemitism, Holocaust Denial In Qatari Press, April 28, 2022; Special Dispatch No. 9891, Qatari Press Praises Tel Aviv Terror Attack In Which Three Israelis Were Killed – And The Terrorist Who Carried It Out, April 11, 2022; Inquiry & Analysis No. 1527, Al-Jazeera Unmasked: Political Islam As A Media Arm Of The Qatari State, August 12, 2020; Special Dispatch No. 8242, Blog Post On Website Of Qatar’s Al-Jazeera Network Praises Hamas Summer Camps And Its Efforts To ‘Raise A Generation That Believes In The Duty Of Jihad’, August 26, 2019; Special Dispatch No. 7975, Qatari Press Praises Armed Palestinian Resistance, Self-Sacrifice For Palestine, April 1, 2019. In addition, Qatar also supports, sponsors and funds the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), founded in 2004 by the extremist Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi, of which Hamas Political Bureau head Isma’il Haniyeh is a member. The union provides Hamas with religious legitimacy and consistently promotes an extremist discourse of hate, incitement, antisemitism, calls for jihad and encouragement of armed struggle against Israel. On this IUMS’ extremist discourse and support for terrorism, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 10557, Qatar-Funded And Operated International Union Of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) And Hamas Leaders In Qatar Call Palestinians To I’tikaf In Al-Aqsa Mosque With Intention Of Waging Jihad Prior To April 5 Clashes, Declare April 7 As ‘Day Of Rage’, April 7, 2023; Special Dispatch No. 10553, Member Of The International Union Of Muslim Scholars: Muslims Must Liberate Al-Aqsa By Any Means; It Is The Blood Of The Jihad Fighters That Lights The Flame Of Al-Aqsa; The Day Of Judgement Will Come When The Muslims Fight And Kill The Jews, April 5, 2023; Inquiry & Analysis No. 1652, Al-Qaradawi: Qatar’s Islamist Empire Builder, October 3, 2022; Special Dispatch No. 10464 – International Union Of Muslim Clerics (IUMS) Member: The Jerusalem Terrorist Who Killed Seven Civilians Is A ‘Hero’ And A ‘Role Model’; The Quran Explicitly Calls To Wage Jihad For The Sake Of Allah, February 6, 2023; Special Dispatch No. 10356, Yousef Al-Qaradawi’s Successor Ali Al-Qaradaghi Shares Mentor’s Hardline Views And Positions On West, Christianity, And Jihad, Actively Promotes Muslim Brotherhood Ideology To Millions Of People On Multiple Platforms, May 12, 2022; Special Dispatch No. 8830, International Union Of Muslim Scholars, Backed By Qatar And Turkey, Calls For Jihad And Self-Sacrifice To Foil Israel’s Plan To Annex Parts Of The West Bank, July 6, 2020; Special Dispatch No. 7984, International Union Of Muslim Scholars Urges Imams To Preach Armed Jihad Against Israel To Save Al-Aqsa, April 4, 2019; Special Dispatch No. 8083, Dr. Ahmed Al-Raissouni, Head Of The International Union Of Muslim Scholars Which Was Founded By Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradawi In Dublin: Questioning The Holocaust Is Not Just A Right But An Obligation, May 23, 2019; Special Dispatch No. 8135, International Union Of Muslim Scholars, Supported By Qatar, Calls To Boycott Bahrain Conference On Deal Of The Century, Support Palestinians’ Jihad, June 24, 2019; Special Dispatch No. 7264, Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi Calls For Resistance, Jihad And Martyrdom Following Trump’s Recognition Of Jerusalem As Israel’s Capital, January 4, 2018.

[58] Twitter.com/hamidehghani, April 18, 2023.

[59] Facebook.com/TCDoha, April 14, 2023.

[61] Facebook.com/profile.php?id=100041660296765, April 13, 2023.

[62] Alaraby.co.uk, April 16, 2023.

[63] Reuters.com/article/us-russia-hamas-idUKKCN0Q81NW20150803 August 3, 2015,

[65] Wsj.com/world/middle-east/iran-israel-hamas-strike-planning-bbe07b25, October 8, 2023.

[67] Syriahr.com, October 15, 2023.

[68] Home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm1098, August 19, 2020.

[70] Hamas.ps, September 10, 2022.

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