WASHINGTON – A top Hamas official in Lebanon said his group is coordinating ground attacks on Israel with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, claiming their tactics are the same.
"The enemy is the same and our tactics are the same," according to Hamas official Osama Hamdan in an interview with the Assafir newspaper, one of the leading Arabic language dailies in Lebanon. "Therefore, we put in efforts to exchange expertise. There is constant field cooperation and coordination."
Hamdan, who heads Hamas' international relations department, said while there have been differences between them, their coordination and cooperation would allow his group to confront an Israeli ground operation into Lebanon.
The two resistance groups, which the United States, Israel and other countries regard as terrorist groups, split after Hezbollah and Iran went to the assistance of Syria in that country's three-year civil war which has claimed more than 160,000 lives.
Hezbollah, like Iran, is Shiite while Hamas is Sunni. Yet, in the past, Iran has backed both Shiite and Sunni groups.
Prior to the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, the Hamas leadership had its headquarters in Damascus but left in protest after the civil war began between the Shiite-Alawite government of Bashar al-Assad and his Sunni opposition.
The effect of not backing Assad, however, cost Hamas much of its financial and logistical support from Iran. In seeking new sources of support, Hamas was openly supportive of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood-backed President, Mohamed Morsi. However, he was ousted last year by the Egyptian military, forcing Hamas to seek to rebuild its relationship with Iran since much of its funding had dried up.
Prior to becoming the organization it is today, Hamas was the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood.
"The relationship with Hezbollah and Iran today is better than everyone thinks," Hamdan said, "and ties with Hezbollah are by far better than what optimists want to believe."
In his interview with the newspaper Assafir, Hamdan said Hamas was strong enough and capable of withstanding Israeli attacks and referred to Hamas' capability "of continuing to fire rockets and confront any ground operation and reach deep into Israel."
Israel now is considering whether to launch a ground assault into Gaza after its air assaults on this narrow strip of real estate of only 139 square miles – twice the size of Washington, D.C. – with almost 2 million Palestinians.
A decision by Israeli authorities to put boots on the ground in Gaza could result in a protracted battle and high casualties on both sides.
"The resistance has grown from a military faction to include more people, and now today involves the general population," Hamdan said. "Therefore, it is difficult to defeat it, but the battle will take some time and there are plenty of surprises to come."
Hamdan's comments follow a single rocket attack last week from southern Lebanon into Israel, which Hezbollah and Hamas regard as occupied Palestine.
The battle between Israel and Hamas began after the abduction and killing of three Israeli seminary students by Palestinians. Tensions were further stoked when a Palestinian teen was burned alive in an apparent reprisal killing.
Hamdan's comments linking Hamas' attacks on Israel with Hezbollah suggests that Hezbollah, which controls southern Lebanon, may have had prior knowledge of the rocket attack into Israel from that location.
Hamdan's implication of Hezbollah supports Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's previous threat of a military response to any Hezbollah attack, because of its influence over the Lebanese government.
One source told WND that Hamdan's implication of Hezbollah may be an attempt to gain an ally and widen the conflict with Israel, knowing it doesn't have the military capability to defeat it.
With Hezbollah's involvement, Israel would be forced to open a two-front conflict that would divide its forces but also greatly enlarge the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a wider regional conflict.
After last week's rocket attack on Israel, however, the Lebanese army, which has close ties with Hezbollah, immediately moved in to halt any further rocket attacks, with the hope it didn't escalate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict any further.