03.11.2023 Author: Alexandr Svaranc

Hamas Leaders Leave Turkey and Hand Over Hostages to Iran


The military conflict in the Middle East continues to keep the world diplomatic community on its toes. Israel is still planning a ground operation against Hamas militants and commanders in the Gaza Strip to clean up the territory once and for all. In planning this operation, Tel Aviv ignored numerous calls from various countries and international organizations urging it to refrain from any actions that could lead to a collective massacre of civilians living in this Arab enclave, numbering more than 2 million people.

The temporary pause before X-Day is motivated by the need for more thorough preparation of the planned ground operation and the accumulation of the necessary forces and means (especially ammunition, namely aircraft bombs and artillery). IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi expressed his confidence that the ground forces are “very well prepared” for the offensive. As for the delay in this operation, Halevi explained, “There are tactical, operational and strategic considerations that gave us more time to prepare.”

According to some sources, the United States is dispatching additional forces to Israel (including 10 thousand volunteers from among Israeli citizens staying in the United States, 2 thousand marines and military advisers for fighting in urban areas) and ammunition from its military bases located in Iraq and Turkey (including through Azerbaijan).

Israel has called up 360,000 reservists to join the 150,000-strong Defense Forces, a small portion of which have been deployed north to contain Hezbollah operations from Lebanese territory, while the rest are aimed at the Gaza Strip. In other words, more than 520 thousand fighters are on standby mode and ready to launch an operation. In addition to this, two US aircraft carriers and British landing ships were sent to the shores of Israel, as well as US military bases stationed in the Middle East (Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, etc.). Germany, France and Italy promised to send additional forces.

Turkey calls on the United States and other NATO countries to refrain from such an operation, cease hostilities and prevent the mass extermination of innocent civilians. At the same time, Erdogan does not consider Hamas a terrorist organization, but a mujahideen liberation group opposing Israel’s policy of racism and apartheid.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also appealed to the conflicting parties to stop military action and begin the process of political settlement of the deep-rooted Arab-Israeli issue based on existing UN resolutions and also supported Turkey’s peace initiatives to convene an international conference and create a Palestinian state with the involvement of security guarantors for both countries, Palestine and Israel. Unlike the US, which abandons all peace initiatives and refuses to call things by their proper name at the UN, Russia declares the need for a ceasefire and negotiations.

Meanwhile, Hamas leaders appealed to the Middle East and the Islamic world in general to provide them not only with humanitarian assistance, but also with weapons and financial support. Moreover, a Hamas delegation was sent to Russia.

In particular, a group led by Political Bureau member Abu Marzouk arrived in Moscow where the parties discussed the situation in the Gaza Strip and the ongoing conflict with Israel, as well as the issue of releasing hostages and evacuating Russian nationals from the combat zone.

Moscow, expressing its consistent position on the Palestinian issue, reaffirmed its unswerving stance regarding the implementation of the relevant resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly, which envisage the establishment of an independent state of Palestine within the 1967 borders with its capital in East Jerusalem.

Israel called the Russian Foreign Ministry’s invitation to the Hamas delegation a “deplorable step” that could legitimize the “atrocities” of this group. However, Moscow is trying to maintain a balanced relationship with all parties involved and bring peace to the Middle East; its position in this situation, according to Sergei Stepashin, is “the fight against terrorism and the protection of civilians.” The Russian side is discussing with Hamas’s representatives the fate of Israeli and foreign hostages, which is more than 200 people who could die during the IDF ground operation.

According to Political Bureau member Hussam Badran, Hamas highly values Russia’s role at the international level in efforts to stabilize the situation in the Middle East. In particular, Moscow was recently forced to use its veto power in the UN Security Council during the vote on the American draft resolution on the Middle East. Then the Russian Permanent Representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, called the US draft resolution on the Gaza Strip “a license for Israel to conduct a ground operation.”

On October 7, that is, the day the Al-Aqsa Flood Operation began, the Head of the Hamas Political Bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, was in Turkey and met with Turkish leaders. On October 26, some Western media, however (in particular, the English-language Al-Monitor with its headquarters in Washington), spread “unverified” information that Ankara political leaders required Mr. I. Haniyeh and other Hamas members to leave Turkey. It was also noted that such a decision of the Turkish side was communicated to Hamas leaders through the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT), explaining that the MIT cannot guarantee their safety in the event of sabotage acts by Israeli intelligence (Mossad or Aman).

Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as reported by The Times of Israel, said, “We are preparing thoroughly. It will be a lethal attack. It will be a combined attack from land, sea, and air.”

Obviously, the hostage issue (including foreign and American hostages) comes to the fore in this situation, since they can be killed in the Gaza Strip by fire from the Israelis themselves or their allies. US President Joseph Biden admitted that Washington may try to influence Israel’s plans if Hamas releases all the hostages captured on the first day of the war on October 7. In turn, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller believes that the United States opposes a ceasefire in all cases, because otherwise it will allow Hamas to restore its strength.

According to the Iranian channel Al Mayadeen, citing Iranian Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian, Hamas, in turn, offered to exchange part of the hostages on November 7 for fuel, and on October 26, Hamas announced its readiness to hand over all civilian hostages to Iran in exchange for 6 thousand Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

The head of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, reportedly, was recently invited to the United States for consultations under the UN auspices to discuss options for the release of hostages and resolving the crisis in the Middle East. After the appropriate negotiations between Iran and Hamas, the parties reached the above option and planned to hand over the hostages after an agreement between Qatar and Turkey.

However, Hamas has previously made similar demands to Israel. For example, in 2011, Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was released by Hamas in exchange for 1,027 Arab militants of the group convicted in Israel. However, it is difficult to say what will happen this time. Israel insists on carrying out the Lethal Attack Operation, but the hostage issue (including foreigners and not excluding the Israeli military) remains a serious deterrent. If Israel hands over 1,027 convicted militants for one valuable military man, then where is the guarantee that Tel Aviv will not free 6 thousand Palestinians for a dozen out of 200 hostages? But will the exchange of hostages and prisoners solve the issue of the IDF ground operation?

As we see, Hamas recognizes the authority of Iran and its ability to resolve hostage issues in negotiations with the United States. Hamas leaders are leaving Turkey so as not to create further problems for Erdogan with his allies in the West (and Turkey has not yet recalled its ambassador to Israel). In other words, Iran’s role in the Middle East crisis remains crucial. Tehran not only retains the possibility of negotiations with Hamas, but also the ability to have a direct dialogue with Israel’s main defender, the United States.


Aleksandr SVARANTS, Doctor in Political Science, professor, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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