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Diana Alghoul

Israel 'furious' after Hamas leader Haniyeh invited to Russia

Ismail Haniyeh's popularity is growing [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 December, 2018

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Israel has expressed fury that leader of Hamas Ismail Haniyeh has been invited to Moscow.

Israel has slammed Russia for inviting Hamas's chief Ismail Haniyeh to visit Moscow later this month.

According to a TV report by Israel’s Channel 10, complaints from Israel were voiced by Israel’s embassy in Moscow and also communicated to the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv.

But the Kremlin snubbed Israel’s comments, saying Israel itself is in talks with Hamas, which the government in Tel Aviv regards as a terrorist organisation.

Last month, Haniyeh received an invitation to make an official visit to Moscow and is expected to arrive in late December.

Haniyeh's office said the invitation was delivered on Wednesday by a visiting Russian diplomat. Its statement did not elaborate on the purpose of the visit but reports suggest the talks will focus on reconicliation with Fatah and Gaza.

Russia maintains high-level contact with Hamas, which Israel, the US and the European Union classify as a terrorist group.

Haniyeh was elected as Hamas' top leader last year. His predecessor, Khaled Mashaal, visited Moscow frequently.

Increased Hamas popularity

Meanwhile, a public opinion poll has shown that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would lose to Haniyeh if presidential elections were held today.

The poll, conducted by prominent Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki showed that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would win with 49 percent to Abbas' 42 percent.

Shikaki links the results to what's perceived as a Hamas win in its latest confrontation with Israel and dissatisfaction with Abbas' government, particularly over a new social security law.

The poll interviewed 1,200 people in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip and had a 3 percent margin of error.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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