Both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have kept largely quiet since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began last week, expressing “concern” over the condition of Palestinians living in the embattled country but refraining from supporting either side.
Hamas officials in Gaza were ordered not to speak to the press on the matter. The terror group fears any public stance would damage Hamas’s relationship either with Russia or with ordinary Palestinians, many of whom sympathize with the Ukrainians.
Only Hamas political bureau member Mousa Abu Marzouq broke the official silence to celebrate what he called the end of American global hegemony in a tweet on Saturday afternoon.
“One lesson of the Russian-Ukrainian war is that the era of US unipolar domination has ended. The US was not in a position to declare war on Russia; those who cannot declare war will not set the international agenda. From here we can begin to talk about the future of the Zionist entity,” Abu Marzouk said.
In a separate tweet, Abu Marzouq urged the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority to utilize the world’s divided attention span to declare Palestinian independence.
“I call on the PA to seize this opportunity to end security coordination, give free rein to resist the occupation,” Abu Marzouq wrote.
Last Thursday, Russian forces invaded Ukraine after weeks of warnings by Western governments. Russian warplanes bombed major cities and troops have sought to conquer the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
The Russian attack was condemned by the United States and much of Europe. In the Middle East, countries have struck a more cautious note. Israeli Foreign Ministry Yair Lapid has condemned the invasion while Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has not, although their statements were said to have been coordinated.
Russia has seen a rapprochement with Hamas in recent years as Moscow has deepened its involvement in the region. Iran, a key Hamas backer, is aligned with Russia, and Russian diplomats have worked to repair ties between the terror group and Syria after Hamas backed anti-regime Islamists in 2012, causing a rift.
Since 2007, the Palestinian political scene has been split in two. Hamas rules the Gaza Strip despite an international boycott and an Israeli-Egyptian blockade. Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent weapons and other materials from reaching Gaza that could be used to attack Israel.
The Palestinian Authority, a bitter rival of the terror group, administers scattered Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank.
Ramallah immediately announced its concern over the “situation” in Ukraine last week during the first days of the Russian attack. Without taking a stance on the invasion, the PA Foreign Ministry called on Palestinians living in Ukraine to leave the country.
“We are closely following the situation of our expatriates and [Palestinian] students and our embassy in Ukraine,” the PA Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Some 2,500 Palestinians remain in Ukraine, the PA’s envoy to Ukraine, Hisham Dajani, told official Palestine TV.
Several PA diplomats reached by The Times of Israel declined to comment.
On the day of the Russian invasion, senior PA official Hussein al-Sheikh tweeted that he had spoken to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. But according to al-Sheikh, the two discussed a recent meeting of the senior Palestinian leadership, without mentioning the attack.
Palestinian Authority officials have close personal ties with Moscow going back decades. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union provided aid and support to the Palestine Liberation Organization. Many Palestinians studied at Soviet universities, including long-ruling PA president Mahmoud Abbas.
On the other hand, Palestinians on social media have compared the Russian invasion of Ukraine to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Many have expressed solidarity with the Ukrainians, whom they describe as facing a potential “occupation” by foreign invaders.
Others openly hoped for a Russian victory in the war against Ukraine, deeming Putin a bulwark against the West.
“Please God, may Putin see a decisive victory that encourages him to invade more European countries,” wrote Fayez Abu Shemala, a columnist for the Hamas mouthpiece Falastin.
“I hope that the city of London will experience the same fate,” Abu Shemala added in a subsequent tweet. PJC