Confirming what Israeli intelligence sources have been saying for years, Iran's foreign ministry said financially supporting Hamas has been part of the Islamic republic's "principled policy" since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Hossein Jaberi Ansari, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, reiterated support for the Palestinian resistance group on Feb. 8 after a report by a Saudi-owned newspaper said Iran hasn't provided money or resources to Hamas since the Gaza War.
“We haven’t gotten anything from them since 2009, and everything [the Iranians] are saying is a lie," senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk said, according to the London-based daily newspaper A-Sharq al-Awsat, which is owned by a member of the Saudi royal family.
Observers reported a rift between Iran and Hamas over the Syrian civil war: Iran backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Shiite, while Hamas supported Sunni groups fighting against Assad's forces. The conflict, which began in 2011 and has fomented the rise of groups like the Islamic State, is at the root of the European refugee crisis, driving millions of Syrian civilians from their homes as both sides fight for control of Syrian territory. The conflict has also been described as a proxy war between opposed powers backing Sunni and Shia interests.
Hamas has a military wing, but also provides social services in the Palestinian territories, operating schools, orphanages, health clinics and soup kitchens. The group is the only source of healthcare for many impoverished Palestinians, but has also claimed responsibility for suicide bombings and attacks on Israel. Hamas is considered a terrorist group by the U.S., Israel, the U.K., and the European Union. Other countries, notably Russia, China and several northern European nations, do not consider Hamas a terrorist group.
Some reports indicated Iran had never stopped supporting Hamas, including an April 2015 story in the Telegraph that quoted intelligence officials who said Iran had sent "tens of millions of dollars" to Hamas. The money was intended to help rebuild underground tunnel networks used to smuggle weapons and resources into Palestinian territories.
“Since the victory of the Islamic Revolution, the Islamic Republic of Iran has declared that supporting the Palestinian nation and the Palestinian Resistance Movement is among its fixed policies and has continuously taken some measures on this path,” Ansari said on Feb. 8, according to the Algemeiner Journal, a New York-based publication that covers news related to Israel and Israeli interests.
A report by Tasnim News Agency, an official regime-sponsored Iranian news service, quoted a senior Hamas official who said Iran has been continuously supporting Palestinian resistance efforts.
“We appreciate Iran for the support it has provided for the resistance,” senior Hamas leader Khalil Abu Leila said, according to the newspaper.