A senior Hamas delegation has travelled to Moscow to meet Russian foreign ministry officials in the organisation’s first high-profile international visit since it launched a raid in southern Israel on 7 October, killing an estimated 1,400 people and taking another 220 hostage.
The delegation was led by Mousa Abu Marzook, a founder and political leader of Hamas, who met the Russian deputy foreign minister, Mikhail Bogdanov. Marzook, who lives in exile in Qatar, travelled to Moscow after an earlier meeting in Doha with Bogdanov and the Iranian deputy foreign minister, Ali Bagheri Kani.
The delegation was confirmed by representatives of Hamas and by Russia, and a photo showed the three men meeting at the Russian foreign ministry in Moscow.
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“Abu Marzook, a member of the political bureau of the Islamic resistance movement Hamas, is in Moscow,” said the Russian foreign ministry in a statement. “Contact with him took place in pursuit for the immediate release of foreign hostages held in the Gaza Strip, and issues related to ensuring the evacuation of Russian and other foreign citizens from the territory of the Palestinian enclave were discussed.”
Earlier this month, Bogdanov had said he wanted to meet Hamas representatives in Qatar in order to discuss the release of Israeli hostages. At least six of the 220 hostages held by Hamas have Russian citizenship, according to the Israeli government.
“If they are willing, we always are in favour of contact,” Bogdanov told state media earlier this month. “Especially in this situation, [a meeting] would be useful for solving practical issues, including the freeing of hostages.”
The visit has taken place as Russia appears to have aligned with Hamas and its ally Iran in a growing global divide between east and west.
Vladimir Putin this week warned that an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza could lead to a broader regional conflict, saying that “our main task is to stop the bloodshed and violence … otherwise, further escalation of the crisis is fraught with grave and extremely dangerous and destructive consequences. And not only for the Middle East region. It could spill over far beyond the borders of the Middle East.”
In a statement, Hamas representatives said they had told Bogdanov that they “highly valued Putin’s position and the efforts of Russian diplomacy” in the conflict, Russian state media reported.
Thursday’s delegation is the third from Hamas to Moscow in the past year and Marzook has regularly met Bogdanov and the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov. Russian foreign ministry officials have met Hamas delegations since 2006, when the organisation contested elections and then expelled the rival Palestinian movement Fatah.