On May 6, 2017, the Egyptian regime was satisfied with the election of Ismail
Haniyeh as a head of Hamas’ political bureau instead of Khaled Meshaal. But
after Haniyeh’s visit to Iran, it seems he has joined Meshaal on Cairo’s list of
Haniyeh left the Gaza Strip on Dec 1, 2019, to attend a series of meetings in
Cairo with Egyptian intelligence regarding his movement’s arrangement with
During this visit Egyptians officers authorised Haniyeh, at his request, to
travel to Muslim-majority countries, but they got angry when he appeared in
Haniyeh’s foreign tour is the first since his election to his current post in the
summer of 2017 because Egypt has never allowed him before to transit
through the Rafah crossing to other countries.
After Egypt approved the trip Haniyeh travelled to a number of countries,
including paying visits to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatari
Emir Tamim bin Hamed Al Thani, as the most generous leaders supporting
Hamas is counting on Haniyeh’s tour to raise funds for the besieged Strip, in
addition to its political goals.
Haniyeh was accompanied by Mousa Abu Marzouk, the Hamas senior whizz
who is thought to have set a record for fundraising from Islamic foundations
around the world.
On January 3, just before the end of Haniyeh’s journey, the United States
assassinated General Qasem Soleimani, leader of Iran’s Quds Force in an air
strike at Baghdad Airport.
After this, Haniyeh flew to Tehran to attend the funeral and deliver a eulogy.
Iran is one of the biggest supporters of Hamas, and Qassem Soleimani
especially is one of the Iranian leaders who played a role in supplying Hamas
with the weapons and technology needed to manufacture missiles.
Haniyeh’s visit to Iran ignited Cairo’s anger and the Egyptian regime
immediately increased the price of cooking gas piped from Egypt into Gaza.
Official sources told Egypt Watch that the recent increase in the price of
cooking gas is a sanction in response to Haniyeh’s visit to Iran.

Israeli media sources say that the Egyptian approval of Haniyeh’s tour was on
the condition that he did not visit Iran, and Haniyeh agreed to this condition
before leaving Cairo and had intended to abide by it, but things changed after
Soleimani’s assassination.
Observers consider that Haniyeh had no choice. At the moment the news was
received about the assassination, he was forced to sympathise with one of the
most important supporters of Iran.
Diplomatic sources told Egypt Watch that Hamas is now seeking to minimise
the depth of the crisis the visit has caused between the Egyptian regime and
But Israeli media sources say that Haniyeh has become a persona non grata in
the Egyptian regime’s eyes because he violated a commitment he made.
Political analysts see that the real cause of the Egyptian anger is that Hamas’
senior leader in Gaza proved his loyalty to Iran.
The Egyptian regime tried to promote itself as a regional leader, especially in
the shadow of losing its influence in Africa and the Middle East and escalating
other countries’ role.
Thus, it seems that Haniyeh has proved this fact by a short visit and sent a
message that Iran is more important.
But Hamas does not see this matter from the same viewpoint – the movement
spent many years working to please Egypt and appease General Abdel Fattah
al-Sisi’s regime, and Hamas does not want to lose this.
At the same time, Hamas does not want to lose Iran, especially in light of the
fact that the al-Sisi regime will not offer any support for Gaza or for the
Palestinian resistance, whilst Iran does.
In short, Hamas learned for years not to put all its eggs in one basket. Iran is a
friend, but a distant one, while Egypt is close. Hamas knows that Egypt is
important, and how Iranian weapons are effective too.
This strategy is now at stake, and it faces a real challenge because the Egyptian
regime is determined to make Hamas choose between either Tehran or Cairo.
Sanctions by Cairo against Gaza could choke it, but losing Iran could leave
Hamas without a shield in an open war.