Leaders of the terror group Hamas traveled to Iran this week to rebuild relations with one of its top benefactors and leading weapons suppliers, according to regional experts and reports.
Key Hamas leaders held meetings with top Iranian lawmakers and officials in a bid to repair "historic relations" with Tehran, according to Hamas officials quoted in the Iranian press on Tuesday.
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Hamas is seeking to rebuild it weapons caches and capabilities following its latest war with Israel this summer and views Iran as one of its best sources.
The meetings also are about relationship building and renewing ties between the historically close allies.
Relations between Hamas and Iran have been strained since early 2012, when Hamas distanced itself from Tehran following its support of the Assad government in Syria, according to Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).
While Iran continued to provide advanced training weaponry aid to Hamas—much of which was used against Israel over summer—Tehran had cut off its cash contributions to the terror group, a move that chilled the normally tight relationship.
However, "after this summer's war, I think both sides realized that they need each other," Schanzer said. "This is an attempt to realign."
Hamas sent several of its top leaders to make it clear that they are in Iran to express devotion and deference to the Iranian leadership.
The delegation is being led by Hamas political leader Mohamed Nasr and includes Osama Hamdan, the group’s foreign minister who lives in Lebanon, as well as Khaled Qaddoumi, Hamas’ representative in Iran.
The high-level Hamas delegation aims to patch over its differences with Iran to ensure that the Islamic Republic continues arming and supporting it in its conflict with Israel.
The team reportedly met on Monday with the head of Iran’s parliament, Ali Larijani, and other leading Iranian officials.
Hamas officials were quoted as telling the Iranian press that they are "are seeking to strengthen our historic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran."
"The trip of this delegation to the Islamic Republic of Iran are in line with the necessity to mobilize the capacities, potentials, and capabilities the Ummah [nation] of Islam for support of the nation of Palestine," Hamas leader Nasr was quoted as saying.
They also thanked Tehran for supporting Hamas’ terrorist attacks on Israel.
"We are working towards [creating] good relations with Egypt and Iran," Mousa Abu Marzuk, a senior Hamas member, was quoted as saying earlier this week in the Iranian press.
Despite strained ties, Iran still played a key role in Hamas’ most recent war with Israel.
In addition to arming the terror group with sophisticated missiles capable of reaching major Israeli cities, Iran also established the infrastructure and training to enable Hamas militants to build their own missiles.
The effort to strengthen ties comes just weeks after Iran and the United States wrapped up their latest round of nuclear negotiations.
With the talks extended through July of next year, it remains to be seen if American officials will raise with Tehran the issue of its support for Hamas, a U.S. designated terror group.