When Israel and Hamas Fought on the Identical Facet: How Islamist Insurgency in Syria United Them

Following the outbreak of full scale hostilities between the Israeli Defence Forces and Gaza-based Palestinian militia teams led by the territory’s ruling social gathering Hamas, world consideration has been targeted on the battle zone as Israel has launched an invasion of the territory and mass air strikes. Regardless of the present and longstanding animosity between the 2 opponents, it’s a notable however little recognized undeniable fact that Hamas and Israeli forces have been lower than a decade in the past preventing collectively in Syria to help a jihadist insurgency searching for to overthrow the federal government in Damascus and set up an Islamist regime as an alternative. Though Hamas and Israel had very completely different causes for intervening within the struggle effort towards the Syrian state, their widespread trigger finally highlighted the Palestinian group’s shut ties with the Western Bloc’s closest strategic companions within the Center East, Turkey and Qatar, the previous a NATO member and the latter a former host of the U.S. Army’s Central Command and main basing web site for American forces within the area. With Turkey, Qatar and Israel having been main regional gamers in efforts to topple the Syrian authorities, which was a main goal of the USA and its Western allies on which all three regional states relied closely for help, Hamas’ involvement within the initiative served as a key indicator of the organisation’s ‘rogue’ standing and willingness to combat alongside NATO and Israeli forces when this was seen to additional its pursuits, whereas at different occasions cooperating with Hezbollah and Iran towards Israel.

Following the outbreak of insurgency in Syria in mid-2011, which noticed jihadist forces pour throughout the Turkish and Jordanian borders and stage mass executions of captured troopers and police forces, Hamas rapidly sided with Qatar, Turkey, Israel and different Western-aligned regional actors towards the Syrian authorities. In December 2011, after 12 years based mostly in Syria, Hamas transferred its political bureau to Qatar, the main sponsor of the Syrian insurgency within the Arab world on the time, with the Palestinian social gathering’s deputy international minister Ghazi Hamad stating that Damascus had “oppressed its folks” – echoing Western and Turkish rhetoric on the time. Subsequently in February 2012, when Hamas’ shut affiliate in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood appeared poised to take energy within the wake of the Western-backed overthrow of the federal government the earlier 12 months, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh delivered an emotional speech on the Al Azhar Mosque in Cairo praising “the heroic folks of Syria who’re striving for freedom, democracy, and reform.” Worshipers there particularly focused Israel and the Western Bloc’s two best adversaries within the area – chanting “No Hezbollah and No Iran.” Hezbollah had 5 years prior dealt Israel the one navy defeat in its historical past, and was thought of a number one problem to Western Bloc and Israeli pursuits on the time.

Whereas different Palestinian teams such because the Palestinian Islamic Jihad notably didn’t help Western-led efforts to overthrow of the Syrian state, with the Gaza Strip underneath Hamas’ rule flags of the Syrian insurgency would rapidly seem throughout the territory. As a number one supporter of each the Syrian authorities and Hamas, Hezbollah notably sought to reign in its strategic companion, reminding the Hamas management that Syria had been their sole Arab state to supply main arms provides throughout hostiles with Israeli in 2008-2009. Relations rapidly worsened because it emerged that Hamas was turning coaching offered by Hezbollah towards the Syrian state, with its militias actively taking part within the struggle effort towards Syrian and Hezbollah forces. In contrast to Hamas, a Sunni Islamist group, Hezbollah’s help base have been primarily from the minority Shiite department of the Islamic religion, and Shiite inhabitants centres captured by insurgents which Hamas had aligned with in Syria have been persistently being massacred as a part of a coverage of ethnic cleaning. Hamas’ jihadist companions additionally sought to focus on Hezbollah’s help base inside Lebanon’s borders, attacking Shiite inhabitants centres within the social gathering’s strongholds with automobile bombs. The beginnings of massacres of minority Shiite civilians in Egypt have been additionally obvious shortly earlier than the Muslim Brotherhood was overthrown within the nation in July 2013.

Though Hezbollah and Iran sought to retain relations with Hamas as a result of their widespread enmity with Israel, because the Palestinian group’s help for Al Qaeda linked actors grew relations turned more and more strained. In one of the vital strongly worded statements from an Iranian official, member of the Iranian Overseas Affairs and Nationwide Safety Committee Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh acknowledged in 2016 that the Palestinian social gathering was offering “help [to] terrorist teams working underneath the umbrella of the Syrian opposition.” For the Syrian state, which noticed its inhabitants endure immensely underneath jihadist onslaught, relations have been significantly extra hostile. Syrian President Bashar Al Assad in a 2014 interview with the Swedish newspaper Expressen charged that Hamas “helps al-Nusra Entrance” – Al Qaeda’s largest affiliate in Syria. Like Hamas, the fear group was very closely armed and financed by Qatar and Turkey specifically. 

Concerning Al Nusra, which was one in every of Hamas’ predominant companions in Syria and a number one recipient of Qatari and Turkish help, the group had been a number one perpetrator of ethnic cleaning and different extreme struggle crimes. It was by far essentially the most highly effective rebel group in Syria till the expansion in energy of the Islamic State terror group from June that 2014. The Islamic State was previously part of Al Nusra, whereas Al Nusra itself was within the struggle’s preliminary years a key a part of the Free Syrian Army – a coalition of rebel teams lots of which acquired important help from throughout the Western world and Western-aligned states. Hamas’ help for these teams led the Syrian authorities to chop off all ties with it. The next 12 months in 2015 a captured Palestinian-Jordanian jihadist affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood was reported by Syrian sources to have confirmed that Palestinian refugee camps underneath Hamas’ management had turn out to be hubs for coaching of terrorists from the Ahrar Al Sham, Liwa al-Tawhid, Suqour Idleb and Failaq Al Sham militant teams within the Idlib governate straddling the Turkish border the place jihadist forces have been most concentrated.

Whereas Western, Turkish and Qatari help for the Syrian insurgency have been significantly better publicised, and the potential for open Israeli help for militant teams preventing towards the Syrian state threatened to delegitimise them as a result of important anti-Israeli sentiments within the Arab world, in February 2019 Israel Defence Forces’ Chief of Workers Lieutenant Common Gadi Eisenkot confirmed his nation had been offering armaments to the insurgency Hamas was preventing underneath. Israeli media outlet Haaertz on the time referred to this as Israel “exposing its ‘anti-intervention’ lie after so a few years of denial?” This admission got here months after a report by Overseas Coverage journal revealed after interviewing militants from rebel teams preventing alongside Hamas that no less than twelve such teams have been receiving Israeli armaments and funding. The Israeli authorities additionally offered month-to-month salaries to the rebel fighters. 

The Syrian Arab Army had reported as early as 2013 seizing Israeli-supplied weapons from insurgents, and whereas this was extensively dismissed as propaganda to use anti-Israeli sentiment on the time the later revelations by U.S. and Israeli sources made it seem rather more credible. Extra conspicuous than its materials help, nevertheless, was Israel’s main function alongside Turkey in offering air help with strikes on Syrian authorities and Hezbollah targets all through the struggle, typically at factors the place the insurgents Hamas was preventing alongside have been notably exhausting pressed on the bottom. The insurgents in flip notably notably focused air defence websites from the outset of the battle in 2011, partially as a result of hopes for a broader NATO air assault much like that launched towards Libya that 12 months which might assist convey them to energy. 

The battle in Syria finally highlighted the very important ideological variations between the vast majority of Israeli and Western Bloc adversaries within the Center East, together with Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, the Yemeni Ansurullah Coalition and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, when in comparison with Hamas which ideologically had no qualms about taking over arms towards Western Bloc adversaries and aligning with both NATO members or with Al Qaeda associates. It additionally highlights that Hamas ties to Qatar, Turkey and the ideology of the trans-national Muslim Brotherhood led it to understand a robust curiosity in imposing Islamist rule on Syria even when its main adversary Israel was additionally supporting this goal. By the late 2010s the defeat of the insurgency in Syria, alongside Qatar and Turkey’s unwillingness to arm Hamas towards Israel and solely achieve this to combat Syria, compelled the Palestinian social gathering to once more reorient its ties. Its restored partnership with Hezbollah and Iran, nevertheless, is prone to stay an alliance of comfort relatively than one constructed on belief or widespread ideology. For Syria, the place Hamas served as a key enabler of the rise of jihadist rebel teams in a struggle effort that killed over 1 / 4 of one million folks, the battle between the Palestinian group and Israel now seems as one pitting two of its adversaries towards each other. 

For extra info on the function of international state and non-state actors within the Syrian battle see the 2021 publication World Conflict in Syria: World Battle on Center Jap Battlefields 

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