Is Syria’s al-Assad supporting Hamas for political gain or optics? | Israel-Palestine conflict News

The regional fallout from Israel’s battle on Gaza has drawn renewed consideration to the so-called “resistance axis” – an alliance of kinds between Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and Syria.

However whereas Hezbollah and Iran have been visibly lively since October 7, the Syrian regime has performed a extra muted position in help of its on-again, off-again ally, Hamas.

My enemy’s enemy

It was solely in October of final 12 months that Hamas formally re-established ties with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, greater than a decade after they fell out within the early years of the Syrian civil battle when Hamas threw its lot in with the Syrian opposition’s revolution.

The reconciliation was reportedly encouraged by Hezbollah and Iran partially to counter the rising variety of Arab governments normalising their relations with Israel via the Abraham Accords.

Boxed in by Israel’s tightening siege of Gaza that had been in place since 2007, Hamas was in determined want of allies. And with the Syrian economic system in tatters and Syrian infrastructure more and more focused by Israeli air raids, Damascus was in no place to take care of its grudge when its essential supporters Iran and Hezbollah have been pushing for reconciliation.

Syria’s contribution to Hamas’s materials energy is small and unlikely to have performed any position in facilitating the October 7 assault.

Whereas Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas’s political wing, instructed Al Jazeera final 12 months that a part of the group’s long-range rocket arsenal comes from Syria, the huge bulk of its army stockpiles come from Iran or are domestically manufactured. Nevertheless, Syria’s place inside the broader alliance with Iran and Hezbollah stays a big issue within the escalation of violence throughout the area.

“Syria nonetheless performs an essential position within the Axis of Resistance, just by advantage of its geostrategic place,” says Nasrin Akhter, a PhD candidate at St Andrews College researching relations between Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria.

“In addition to serving as a conduit for the switch of arms to Hezbollah, Syria gives Iran with a foothold within the Arab-Israeli enviornment, permitting it to open up a second entrance towards Israel, and giving it a base from which to focus on US positions within the area.” However inside this alliance, the Syrian regime is a “passive actor” argues Joseph Daher, an educational and skilled on Hezbollah and Syria.

“Since 2011, Syria has had virtually no autonomous position, and depends on both Iran or Russia, generally taking part in one towards the opposite,” says Daher. “Any opening of a army entrance [against Israel] from Syria will really be launched by Hezbollah or pro-Iranian militias,” with Syria itself, “unwilling and unable to launch a battle towards Israel”.

Smoke rises from an Israeli air strike, left, and artillery shelling, proper, on the outskirts of Aita al-Shaab, a Lebanese border village with Israel in south Lebanon, November 13, 2023 [Hussein Malla/AP Photo]

Hezbollah’s Secretary-Common Hassan Nasrallah admitted as a lot himself: “We can’t ask extra of Syria and we have now to be lifelike,” Nasrallah mentioned on November 11 in a speech to supporters. “Syria has been present process a worldwide battle for 12 years. Regardless of its tough scenario, it helps the resistance and suffers the results.”

A battleground for proxy battle

For the reason that begin of the battle on Gaza, Syria has been the location of assaults and reprisals between Israel and the US on the one hand, and Iran and Iran-backed militias on the opposite.

During the last month, the US has performed a number of air raids in Syria towards Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its allies, and Israel bombed the airports in Damascus and Aleppo. In the meantime, Iran-backed militias have struck US targets at the least 40 occasions in Iraq and Syria, in line with the Pentagon.

The escalation in violence creates but extra instability in Syria, and “will increase the chance that Syria shall be remodeled right into a battleground for a proxy battle waged by regional and world powers, heaping additional struggling and distress on the Syrian individuals,” says Akhter.

However whereas Syrians endure the results of the regime’s alliance with Hamas, Assad himself might stand to profit politically as regional leaders come below rising common stress to alter their stance in the direction of Israel.

the village of Khuzaa, near Abasan east of Khan Yunis
A Palestinian lady pets her cat amid the destruction brought on by Israeli assaults in Khuzaa, east of Khan Younis within the southern Gaza Strip on November 27, 2023 [Said Khatib/AFP]

Because the Abraham Accords look more and more untenable, the Syrian regime’s normalisation with Arab leaders continues apace. In November, al-Assad attended the Arab-Islamic summit hosted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, standing alongside regional leaders who beforehand denounced him.

However whatever the regime’s rhetorical help for Gaza, or the photograph alternatives that include regional summits, al-Assad stays a divisive and unpopular determine.

“The important thing difficulty [for the Syrian regime] isn’t the liberation of Palestine, however its personal survival and geopolitical pursuits,” says Daher.

“Assad’s reputation is already very weak inside the nation due to the continual deepening of the socioeconomic disaster, with greater than 90 % of the inhabitants dwelling below the poverty line. There shall be no vital improve in his reputation on account of his help for Hamas.”

Akhter agrees: “There’s widespread realisation within the Arab world that the Syrian regime is solely championing the Palestinian trigger for its personal political functions, so as to deflect consideration away from its personal home human rights violations.

“It will do little to erase the current reminiscence of atrocities perpetrated by the Syrian regime, with many drawing parallels between Israel’s punishing blockade and bombardment of Gaza with Syria’s siege of the Yarmouk refugee camp, which introduced the Palestinian inhabitants there to the brink of hunger.”

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