Russia has invited Palestinian groups to Moscow, which could bring together Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, and other terrorist groups


Feb 19, 2024

Jerusalem Post


Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said over the weekend that Russia invited Palestinian factions to meet in Moscow at some point in late February, the latest Russian move to increase its influence in a post-October 7 world. Moscow hosted a Hamas delegation already in October, as Hamas sought to do outreach to Moscow.

In October, a Hamas delegation set out for Moscow, led by senior Hamas member Mousa Abu Marzouk, and met with the Russian and Iranian deputy foreign ministers, Mikhail Bogdanov and Ali Bagheri Kani. That meeting represented a convening of interests between Russia, Iran, and Hamas. This is concerning because Iran backs Hamas and also supplies Russia with drones for its use in the war in Ukraine. Russia has been particularly cold towards Israel following October 7, slamming its operations in Gaza and particularly Israel’s ambassador to Russia in early February.

Rising trends in Russia’s influence

The new invitation comes on the heels of these worrisome trends. The Palestinian Authority has been increasingly open to Hamas, at least in some public statements, since October 7. Hamas sought to increase its influence in the West Bank, for instance, in negotiations over prisoners, it seeks to get prisoners released from other factions.

According to Russian state media TASS, Moscow invited up to 14 Palestinian groups to attend, including those belonging to the Palestine Liberation Organization, as well as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. This comes as Algeria pushes the UN to call for a ceasefire and in the wake of Brazilian leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva slamming Israel for the war in Gaza and even comparing it to the Holocaust. This illustrates a growing aspect of international pressure, showing that Moscow is willing to try to step in and wield influence at a crucial juncture. Israeli media have said that the assessment in Jerusalem is that it will take another two months to defeat Hamas in Rafah and other areas in Gaza.

According to TASS, “An inter-Palestinian meeting will be held in Moscow from February 29 to March 1-2. According to Bogdanov, Russia invited representatives of 12-14 organizations.” Bogdanov did not elaborate much on the meeting, responding to a reporter’s question on Friday he said that the meeting would be held from February 29 until March 1 or March 2. Bogdanov also met with Hamas in October.

“We invited all Palestinian representatives – all political forces that have their positions in different countries, including Syria and Lebanon, other countries in the region,” Bogdanov noted. “Therefore, the composition is approximately the same as it was at the previous two inter-Palestinian meetings. These are from 12 to 14 organizations.” According to him, “These are, of course, mostly those that are part of the Palestine Liberation Organization, but there are also some structures that have not yet been included – these are Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Now we have invited them too.”

Ties between Hamas and Russia haven’t faltered

Hamas has done outreach to Russia in the wake of the October 7 attack, an attack that Moscow did not condemn, possibly even welcoming the media distraction from its war on Ukraine. The war in Gaza has required similar types of 155mm shells the Ukrainians use, and the focus on Gaza means that Russia has been able to slowly build up its forces in Donetsk, possibly for a spring offensive. Over the weekend, Ukraine had to withdraw from a key town near Donetsk, with reports saying the Ukrainians are outnumbered and outgunned on the front.

“We proceed from the fact that the PLO has been and remains the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people; it is accepted by the international community and by us,” Bogdanov said. “Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking at the XIII Middle East Conference of the Valdai Club, said that Russia plans to hold another inter-Palestinian meeting to resolve the conflict in the Middle East with the support of Arab states in the foreseeable future,” TASS said.

Pravda in Ukraine noted that “Bogdanov claimed that all Palestinian representatives who have their positions in different countries, including Syria and Lebanon, and other countries in the region, were invited to the event in Moscow.”

What’s next?

The question that remains now is whether Hamas and PIJ will arrive in Moscow, and what will be the state of the Gaza war at that time. Hamas has not budged from its demands in hostage talks, and Israel is increasingly looking to press into Rafah. However, there are key questions about whether this very public discussion of Rafah is designed to pressure Hamas.

For Russia, the opportunity to bring together the Palestinians and pressure Israel could come in the wake of their sense of victory in Ukraine. Moscow believes that its gamble in Ukraine is paying off and that it is now increasingly taking the initiative. This will give it more latitude to take the initiative in the Middle East.