9 July 2007 0 Comments

Hamas brings Sunni-Shia hatreds to West Bank

The backing Hamas gets from Iran is bringing the hatred between Sunni and Shia Muslims to the West Bank.

In 2002, Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal went to Tehran to put aside previous differences between the Sunni Palestinian group and the Lebanese Shia of Hizballah, Iran’s biggest success in the export of Islamic Revolution. Hizballah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah agreed to supply weapons and training (in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley) to Hamas men. One of the biggest results was the Qassam II, the rockets Hamas fires over the Gaza fence into Israel, which was based on a North Korean missile procured by Iran, shipped to Hizballah, smuggled into Gaza and replicated by Hamas engineers. Hamas grew yet closer to Iran after it won parliamentary elections last year, because Iran was one of the few countries willing to fund the ostracized government in Gaza.

With the Hamas attack on Fatah in Gaza three weeks ago, many West Bankers are now casting the battle between the two parties as Sunni against Shia. It’s not literally true, because virtually all Palestinians are Sunni. But as a measure of the depth of hatred and as a way for Fatah to deligitimize Hamas (by suggesting that they’re following the religion of Tehran and therefore hold the interests of a foreign power above those of the Palestinian people), it’s pretty useful. And potentially deadly.

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