March 27, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

Are leaders of Hamas taking a ‘victory’ tour in Iran?

Hamas believes that patience and perseverance will lead to victory in Gaza, and the Hamas leadership thinks it has growing international support while it has suffered no international consequences.
March 27, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

Are leaders of Hamas taking a ‘victory’ tour in Iran?

Hamas believes that patience and perseverance will lead to victory in Gaza, and the Hamas leadership thinks it has growing international support while it has suffered no international consequences.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh visited Iran this week for a kind of victory lap, claiming that Israel had met none of its goals so far in the war in Gaza. 

His visit to Iran comes around a week before the six-month anniversary of the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7. 

The fact that the Hamas leadership continues to jet around the Middle East, holding meetings in Iran and then flying back to Qatar, a major non-NATO ally of the US, illustrates that Hamas continues to feel it has impunity after October 7.

In fact, Hamas has suffered no real consequences for the largest mass murder of Jews since the Holocaust. 

Several Hamas leaders, such as Saleh Al-Arouri and Marwan Issa, have been killed, and an estimated 10,000 Hamas fighters have been eliminated. Thousands were detained, the organization’s top leadership was intact, and it continued to believe it was winning.

From the Hamas point of view, it has gained a lot of credibility in places like China, Russia, Turkey, Iran, and Doha in the wake of its attack because it has shown that it can not only massacre more Israelis than ever in history, but that it can sabotage the normalization processes of the Abraham Accords.

In essence, the Hamas attack on October 7 was a much greater disaster and setback for Israel than any war in the past, and Hamas knows this. 

Never in history were hundreds of Jews taken hostage from inside Israel’s borders, including numerous soldiers, and transported to captivity.

For instance, the fact that Hamas was able to massacre an entire unit of young women soldiers and take seven of them hostage illustrates a huge breakdown in Israel’s capabilities and the promise the Jewish state has always given to its soldiers and its people of “never again.” 

Hamas showed that using basic things like missiles, AK-47s, and motorcycles could puncture the basic foundations of the Jewish state. 

Israel “unable” to defeat Hamas after five months of war

Five months after committing genocide inside Israel’s borders and carting off hostages, Israel has not been able to defeat Hamas, and many of the hostages are held in Gaza. 

They are held in many cases a mile from IDF forces, in places like Rafah, and the IDF has reduced its forces in Gaza rather than pushing into those places to rescue the hostages. 

Instead, Israel relies on Qatar, which hosts Hamas, and Hamas jets back and forth to Iran to continue to brag about its claims of victory.

Haniyeh’s visit to Iran came as the UN Security Council has called for a ceasefire and as Hamas rejected the latest hostage deal. 

Hamas has purposely slow-played the talks about hostages. Hamas knows that Israel promised in December that military pressure would secure the release of more hostages after Hamas violated the first deal on December 1. 

Hamas also knows that military pressure didn’t work because Hamas was able to operationalize the international community to call for an end to the war and to try to prevent Israel from entering Rafah.

Hamas has had a few setbacks since December; it has lost Khan Younis and important infrastructure there, and it lost almost 1,000 terrorists in an attempt to reconstitute itself at Shifa Hospital. 

These are setbacks. But Hamas also showed that it could still fire rockets at Ashdod this week.

Hamas understands that the bar for victory for Hamas is very low. All it has to do is survive, and it will declare victory and then work to restore its power in Gaza and use the war to its advantage in the West Bank.

Because Hamas is backed by Russia, China, Turkey, and Iran and also hosted by the West’s allies, Turkey and Qatar, Hamas knows it enjoys significant international backing for its next stage of plans.

Hamas today has much more support worldwide than at any time in history. For instance, if we compare Hamas in 2024 to Hamas in 2004 during the Second Intifada or 1994 during the Oslo years, the organization was much smaller and weaker. 

October 7 has not led to international condemnation, instead some countries see the war in Gaza as a welcome distraction and they see Hamas as a potential proxy to be used against the West. 

Hamas is thus playing into the game that Russia and Iran are also playing. As such, Hamas is both running the war and also being used as a proxy; its meetings in Iran can also be seen as Hamas meeting its “handlers.”

What did the Hamas leader say in Iran? “The head of the political bureau of the Palestinian movement of Hamas said the Zionist regime had primary goals in Gaza, including the destruction of Hamas and the resistance, freeing the Zionist prisoners, and displacing the people of the Gaza Strip to the Sinai desert, but they achieved none of these objectives. 

Fars News reported that Ismail Haniyeh, who traveled to Tehran as part of a delegation, met with Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian.

Meanwhile, Iran’s regime made statements that dovetail with the Hamas worldview. The Iranian supreme leader said that “media” is “more effective than missiles.” 

This matters because Hamas also lives and thrives on narratives in the media. It needs to present more suffering in Gaza, which Hamas causes by hijacking aid to Gaza. 

It believes that starvation is its weapon, while Israel may have precision missiles, Hamas has suffering as a weapon. 

“To achieve their goals, the Zionists took various brutal actions and committed crimes, including mass killings of citizens, women, and children, extensive and organized destruction, complete military siege, and starvation of the people and residents of the Gaza Strip,” Haniyah claimed.

These are the words that Hamas uses as weapons, which it believes is more powerful than Israel’s F-35s. 

Of course, in the history of fighting terrorism, militaries can win, as ISIS was defeated, but only if groups like Hamas are completely defeated. Hamas is gambling that Israel won’t go into Rafah and won’t ultimately defeat the group. 

Hamas also knows that the West has supported Doha in hosting Hamas and thus knows that it has some tactic support from the West. 

Why it has this support from the West is unclear, but Hamas carried out October 7, knowing that it wouldn’t be charged with crimes against humanity. It gambled on the theory that the West would not mind the massacre of 1,000 civilians in Israel. 

Clearly, when other groups, such as Serbian fighters during the Balkan wars, were accused of massacring people, their commanders, such as Ratko Mladic, ended up on trial in Europe. 

Hamas leaders have not been charged, which appears to indicate they had assurances they could massacre and take hostages and would suffer no international consequences.

 “The resistance and the Palestinian people are still standing strong,” the Hamas leader said in Iran. Hamas believes that Israel will be pressured to stop the war in Gaza, and this will cause a domestic political crisis in Israel. 

Hamas said the US has not changed its strategy in the region yet, and Haniyeh praised the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for its support. 

He also praised the UN call for a ceasefire, which he framed as a “political victory.” Hamas believes that the “patience and perseverance” of the “Palestinian resistance forces on the battlefield,” coupled with international support, will lead to success.

Seth Frantzman is the author of Drone Wars: Pioneers, Killing Machine, Artificial Intelligence and the Battle for the Future (Bombardier 2021) and an adjunct fellow at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War Military and Political Power