Russia Contemplates Opening Second Front As Vladimir Putin Welcomes Hamas and Iranian Leader in Moscow

From left to right: Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Putin's Special Envoy to the Middle East Mikhail Bogdanov, and Hamas head of international relations Mousa Abu Marzouk, during a trilateral meeting in Moscow on October 26, 2023. (Hamas Telegram channel)

Hamas representatives arrived in Moscow on Thursday to discuss the ongoing war with Israel with Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, in a meeting that was also attended by Ali Bagheri Kani, the deputy foreign minister of the terror group’s chief sponsor, Iran.

The Hamas delegation was led by Musa Abu Marzouk, head of the terror group’s International Relations Office, and also included Basem Naim, the former Hamas health minister in Gaza, and the organization’s representative in Moscow, a Hamas statement said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested that Russia is benefitting from war in the Middle East as senior officials from Hamas arrived in Moscow for talks.

Addressing EU leaders meeting for a summit in Brussels, Zelenskyy said by video link: “We must do everything to prevent an even larger international fire from breaking out in the Middle East. The enemies of freedom are very interested in bringing the free world to the second front.”

He added: “We must clearly see this scenario and counter it — together, of course. The sooner security prevails in the Middle East, the sooner we will restore security here — in Europe.”

The stated goal of the visit was to discuss the ongoing war with Israel and ways to stop “Zionist crimes supported by the United States and the West.”

The Hamas delegation also praised the position of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the efforts of Russian diplomacy.

Bogdanov, who is also Putin’s special envoy to the Middle East, reportedly expressed Russia’s support for the rights of the Palestinian people, and spoke of his country’s efforts to achieve a ceasefire and open humanitarian corridors in Gaza.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry scolded Russia for hosting representatives of the terror group, as Jerusalem’s public frustration with Russia grew. “Hamas is a terrorist organization worse than ISIS,” ministry spokesman Lior Haiat tweeted.

“Israel sees the invitation of senior Hamas officials to Moscow as an obscene step that gives support to terrorism and legitimizes the atrocities of Hamas terrorists,” the Foreign Ministry said, and called on Moscow to immediately expel the Hamas leaders.

“The hands of senior Hamas officials are stained with the blood of over 1,400 Israelis who were slaughtered, murdered, executed and burned, and they are responsible for the kidnapping of over 220 Israelis including babies, children, women and the elderly,” it added.

Israel has repeatedly called out Moscow in recent days over its frequent statements against the Jewish state in the context of the war in Gaza, the Foreign Ministry told The Times of Israel on Tuesday.

An Israeli diplomat had a conversation with a Russian official this week to express Jerusalem’s “displeasure with the role Russia is playing” in the war against Hamas, and to stress Israel’s hope that Moscow will take “more balanced” positions, the ministry added.

Among other positions, Moscow submitted a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire that did not mention Hamas, and was therefore voted down by the United States, Britain, France and others. Moscow has backed Israel’s right to defend itself but has blasted Israel for employing “cruel methods” in its campaign against the terror group.

Meanwhile, bilateral ties appear to be expanding between Moscow and Tehran. Earlier this week, Iran announced it is close to concluding a free-trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union, an economic bloc of post-Soviet countries led by Russia.

Deputy foreign ministers of the two countries held a meeting on Thursday to discuss ways to promote multilateralism, international peace and security “at a time when certain countries are acting unilaterally,” an Iranian statement said.

War between Israel and Hamas broke out when the terror group launched a ground, air and sea assault from the Gaza Strip on the Jewish state early on October 7.

Under the cover of a barrage of thousands of rockets, over 2,500 gunmen crossed the border and rampaged murderously through southern towns, killing more than 1,400 people, most of them civilians, and abducting more than 200.

Some 200,000 Israelis have been displaced from both the south and the north of the country, which has come under rocket barrages from the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group.

Israel has responded with intense strikes on Hamas targets, while vowing to destroy the terror group and remove it from power in Gaza, where it has ruled since 2007.

The Hamas-run health ministry claimed on Thursday that at least 7,000 Palestinians have been killed in the ongoing conflict. The figures issued by the terror group cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include its own terrorists and gunmen, killed in Israel and in Gaza, and the victims of a blast at a Gaza City hospital on October 17 caused by an Islamic Jihad missile misfire but that Hamas has blamed on Israel. Israel says it killed 1,500 Hamas terrorists inside Israel on and after October 7.

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