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20 Jan, 2024 08:12

EU’s top diplomat accuses Israel of financing Hamas

Netanyahu has vehemently denied such claims, blaming Iran for the flow of arms and funds to the Palestinian group
EU’s top diplomat accuses Israel of financing Hamas

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has openly accused the Israeli government of funding Hamas, an allegation Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied. Borrell did not elaborate on the claim, which has been repeatedly made by opponents of Netanyahu and the Israeli media.

Speaking at the University of Valladolid in Spain, Josep Borrell said Hamas “was financed by the Israeli government in an attempt to weaken the Palestinian Authority led by Fatah,” according to El Pais newspaper.

Netanyahu has blamed the rise of Hamas on Iran, for supporting the Palestinian militant group “with money, training and weapons and technological know-how” and intelligence.

Israel claims Tehran was involved in plotting the October 7 attacks, in which around 1,200 people were killed and scores taken hostage in the surprise Hamas raid near Gaza. Israel responded with an intense military bombardment of the Palestinian enclave, so far leaving about 24,000 dead, according to local health officials. The operation is aimed at wiping out the militant group, Israel says. Hamas has ruled Gaza since 2007, when it defeated the Fatah movement, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, in an armed conflict.

In a televised interview on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Iran is the head of the octopus and you see its tentacles all around from the Houthis to Hezbollah to Hamas,” and admitted that the IDF has carried out direct strikes on the country.

Tehran has denied any role in the Hamas assault on Israel, with Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani saying such accusations were “based on political reasons.”

Claims of Netanyahu’s alleged covert support for Hamas go back several years. Critics have accused him of allowing funds to flow to the group as a way to undermine peace process and scupper negotiations on Palestinian statehood. In March 2019, Netanyahu told his Likud party colleagues: “Anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state has to support bolstering Hamas and transferring money to Hamas.”

Josep Borell said the only peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict included the creation of a Palestinian state, and suggested this might need to “be imposed from the outside,” without Israel’s agreement.

Borrell’s remarks came ahead of Monday’s EU foreign ministers’ meeting with counterparts from Israel, the Palestinian Authority and key Arab countries in Brussels, where they will discuss the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza and the prospects for a future peace settlement.

On Thursday, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza on the condition that Hamas is dismantled and all hostages released. The resolution came just days after Netanyahu dismissed the idea of Palestinian statehood, rebuffing such calls from the United States and EU.

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