December 2, 2023

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Vladimir Putin ‘forming axis of terror’ with Hamas and Iran

Vladimir Putin has reportedly intervened in the Middle Eastern confilct by inviting senior Hamas and Iranian leaders to Moscow.

The move has been condemned by Israel as an “obscene step” that “gives support to terrorism”, reports The Telegraph. The Russian officials reportedly praised Hamas for taking an “active role” in the conflict.

Ali Bagheri Kani, the deputy foreign minister of Iran – the main sponsors of Hamas – also flew into Moscow for talks. It has led to concerns Russia has formed an “axis of terror” with Hamas.

Hamas reportedly praised Putin personally for his “stance” on the conflict. The group has also “acknowledged the active role of Russian diplomacy”

Hamas released a photo showing its head of international relations Bassem Naeem and Mousa Abu Marzouk, a senior member of the Hamas politburo, in a meeting with Mikhail Bogdanov, Putin’s special envoy in the Middle East.

It is seen by some Western observers as Putin abandoning his long-standing alliance with Israel in favour of closer ties with Iran and its Islamist allies. Hamas carried out a surprise attack on Israel on October 7.

Lioir Hiat, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, said Israel “sees the invitation of senior Hamas officials to Moscow as an obscene step that gives support to terrorism and legitimises the atrocities of Hamas terrorists”.

Iran’s foreign minister meanwhile said the country was willing to “play its part” in securing the release of Hamas’s hostages. At the United Nations he called for an exchange with 6,000 Palestinians held by Israel.

He said: “The Islamic Republic of Iran stands ready to play its part in this very important humanitarian endeavour, along with Qatar and Turkey. Naturally, the release of the 6,000 Palestinian prisoners is another necessity and responsibility of the global community.”

Russia and China however have stopped short of condemning Hamas. They have however called for a ceasefire that US officials believe would simply give Hamas time to regroup ahead of a possible second assault.

Israel‘s ambassador Maya Yaron has expressed her disappointment that China did not condem Hamas strikes involving civilians. While Israel says it intends to continue with a land offensive against Hamas in a bid to prepare territory in northern Gaza for a full-scale invasion, The Telegraph claims.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has moved tanks, armoured vehicles and bulldozers into Gaza. The IDF said the “targeted raid” was “preparations” for the “next stage of combat”.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had previously said Hamas was “doomed” and warned “this is only the beginning”. Although defence minister Yoav Gallant reportedly said Israel had “no interest in expanding the war”.

Jonathan Harounoff, the communications director at The Jewish Institute for National Security of America, said the meetings between Putin, Hamas, and Iran could “spell trouble for a new alliance brewing, and a growing global splintering between East and West”.

He said: “It could also signal Moscow’s readiness to abandon its longstanding ties with Israel in order to spread and benefit from chaos and conflict.”

Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Centre in Berlin, says Russia appears to be looking for short-term gains in the Arab world while it is enraged with the West for not responding to Israel‘s bombing in Gaza. “The main messaging here is for the global Muslim community to show them: We’re on your side,” he said.

It comes as Putin has blamed the United States for the unrest in the Middle East. He offered himself as a mediator saying the US had failed to help create a Palestinian state.

In response to attacks in the region, the US has deployed 900 additional troops to support air defences. While the UK has sent RAF and Royal Navy resources.

There have also been signs of an alleged fracture between anti-Israel Islamist groups, with suggestions Hamas thought Hezbollah was not fighting enough in the north.

Hezbollah is rumoured to have been aware of the October 7 attacks. The group’s leader met Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders on Wednesday to discuss how to achieve “victory” over Israel.

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