Public marches recently held in Gaza and statements made by senior Hamas figures, all in favor of the Houthis, have provoked a great deal of anger in the Gulf, as well as in moderate Arab states.
The Ramallah-based leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA), however, publicly condemned the Houthis — but has not had control over Gaza since June 2007, when Hamas enacted a military coup and seized control over the enclave.
The Houthi movement, based in Yemen, is a predominately Zaidi Shia force from the Houthi tribe.
Last week, the Houthis took responsibility for a drone and missile attack launched against an oil facility and the airport in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates. Three people were killed in the attacks and six more were injured.
So it is understandable why the Gulf States would be bothered by the terrorist group Hamas declaring any solidarity with the Houthis.
The Arab League Sunday called for the group to be labeled as terrorists by the international community.
In Gaza this weekend the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group marched in support of the Houthis.
Participants in the demonstrations held up pictures of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Al Quds force assassinated by the US, and Imad Mughniyeh, a senior Hezbollah figure killed by Israel. They waved Yemeni flags and brandished photos of Houthi leaders.
But something else happened that really earned the negative attention of the Gulf leaders.
Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas figure who is seen as the leader of the group’s pro-Iranian camp, told the Hezbollah-linked network Al-Mayadeen news network this weekend, “Saudi Arabia and the Emirates’ attacks on the Houthis are like Israel’s attacks on the Palestinians.”
Journalists and commentators in the Emirates were quick to respond to Hamas’ support for the Iranian proxy militia.
One commentator even went so far as to praise Israel as being a better friend than Hamas, writing, “It turns out that in difficult times, Israel actually stands by the Emirates and expresses support for them while those who are supposed to be the brothers are revealed as haters who have abandoned the Emirates.”
One journalist from Bahrain told TPS, “This is an upside-down world, but Hamas will not escape a [negative] reaction.”
A Moroccan journalist also reacted angrily, saying “it turns out that the Houthis and Hamas are the face of Iran, and Hamas has revealed its face.”
A Palestinian Authority commentator told TPS, “Palestinian factions under Hamas made a very serious mistake when they decided to rely on regional players such as Iran.”
The source went on to explain that Hamas and the other terrorist factions are under “very heavy pressure and it seems that this is dragging them toward unequivocal support for Iran.” This pressure, he explained, is coming from the the young leadership at the expense of relations with moderate Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
The demonstration of support for the Houthis by Hamas comes after another internal debate in the Iranian proxy militia over the desired relationship between Hamas and Iran that ended recently.
The leaders of Hamas’ military wing, Izz a-Din al-Qassam, ruled that the organization should continue to stand with the Iranians as a strategic necessity.
Sources in the Gaza Strip told TPS they believe “the demonstrations in support of the Houthis are a final statement of faith submitted by Hamas to the Iranians and a divorce decree from Arab countries.
“Hamas will pay a heavy price stemming from its latest actions and the Egyptians will probably act accordingly, just as they did against Ismail Haniyeh when he went to Soleimani’s funeral in Tehran; since then Egypt has prevented his return to Gaza,” a Gaza source said.
The same source added that in this regard, the positions of Hamas “do not represent the Palestinians or even the residents of the Gaza Strip.” He added there is fear now in Gaza of a negative response to all of this from the Gulf States, especially from Saudi Arabia, as well as from Egypt.
Cairo is of special concern here as Egypt continues to serve as Hamas’ only conduit to the world; it “holds the keys” to the economic rehabilitation of Gaza.
For now, the UAE also continues to support social enterprises in Gaza — but this could change.
Over the years, Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders have repeatedly erred in their foreign relations. Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) chairman and founding PA leader Yasser Arafat supported Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait. This led to the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Authority Arabs working in Kuwait.
Hamas supported the Syrian rebels and consequently was expelled in 2011 from Damascus by President Bashar al-Assad.
Now Hamas is expressing support for Iran, despite Saudi opposition.
It is also important to note that the Houthis have no love for Israel. The Iranian proxy militia is considered a threat due to its presence in the Gulf of Aden, a strategic waterway south of Yemen linking the Arabian Sea with the Red Sea.
Israel’s southernmost city, the seaside resort city of Eilat, is located directly on the shores of the Red Sea.
Hana Levi Julian contributed to this article.