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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Hamas, Houthis hold rare meeting: Palestinian sources

The Huthis have attacked Red Sea shipping for months since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on October 7, saying they are targeting Israeli-linked vessels in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

Senior figures from Hamas and Yemen’s Huthi rebels held a rare meeting to discuss coordinating their actions against Israel, Palestinian factional sources told AFP on Friday.

Hamas and the Huthis belong to the “axis of resistance”, a collection of Iran-backed movements hostile to Israel and the United States that also includes Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iraqi militias.

Read more: Hamas presents ceasefire proposal detailing exchange of hostages, prisoners

The Huthis have attacked Red Sea shipping for months since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on October 7, saying they are targeting Israeli-linked vessels in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

According to sources from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, leaders from the two Palestinian Islamist groups, as well as the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, held an “important meeting” with Huthi representatives last week.

The groups discussed “mechanisms to coordinate their actions of resistance” for the “next stage” of the war in Gaza, the sources said without identifying where the meeting took place.

Read more: Hamas responds to US-backed ceasefire plan

The Palestinian groups and the Huthis also talked about a possible Israeli ground assault into southern Gaza’s Rafah, said the sources, who requested anonymity.

According to the United Nations, around 1.5 million people are crowded into and around Rafah, Hamas’s last stronghold in Gaza, most of whom are displaced and crammed against the Egyptian border in dire living conditions.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Friday he had approved the military’s plan for an operation in Rafah.

The Huthis confirmed they would continue their attacks on Red Sea shipping to “support the Palestinian resistance”, according to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad sources.

The rebels’ leader Abdul Malik al-Huthi said on Thursday their attacks would expand to target ships avoiding the Red Sea by navigating past South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope.

Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Palestinian militants also seized about 250 Israeli and foreign hostages, dozens of whom were released during a week-long truce in November. Israel believes about 130 captives remain in Gaza, including 32 presumed dead.

Israel’s retaliatory campaign against Hamas has killed at least 31,490 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.