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Senior Hamas delegation arrives in Iran for rare visit

Relations between Hamas and Iran strained after Tehran backed Bashar al-Assad in Syria's war. [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 August, 2017

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A senior delegation of Hamas officials arrived in Iran on Friday for a rare visit billed as a good will mission to boost ties with Tehran.

A senior delegation of Hamas officials arrived in Iran on Friday for a rare visit billed as a good will mission to boost ties with Tehran.

The delegation was headed by Izzat al-Rishq, currently based in Qatar, and includes other prominent diaspora-based members of the Hamas movement.

Hamas said the visit was "a show of gratitude towards the role of Iran in supporting the steadfastness of the Palestinian people in their just cause".

The visit would also "further bolster the relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran", a statement said.

The officials attended the swearing-in ceremony of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who was re-elected in May.

Saleh al-Arouri, a senior Hamas military commander who was expelled from Qatar in July, was also part of the delegation, according to Israeli media reports.

The centre of decision making in Hamas shifted earlier this year from the diaspora to Gaza when Ismail Haniyeh was elected as head of the movement to replace Qatar-based Khaled Meshaal.

Since the group's founding in 1987 its top leaders have moved between Arab capitals such as Beirut, Damascus, and Doha.

Relations between Hamas and Iran, once one of the group's main backers, became strained after Tehran provided military, political and economic backing for President Bashar al-Assad against Syrian rebels. Hamas took on a more neutral position, and was forced to withdraw its leadership from Damascus.

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