We reported earlier that Hamas on Thursday sent a delegation to Moscow, a rarity, in order to engage with Russian diplomats on the Gaza-Israel crisis. The controversial meetings appear to have born fruit for the Kremlin side, particularly related to dual Russian citizens who are being held by Hamas, among the more than 220 Israeli captives who haven’t been heard from since Oct.7.
According to The Moscow Times, “Hamas is trying to locate eight Russian-Israeli dual citizens among nearly 230 taken hostage during the Palestinian militants’ attack on Israel after Moscow’s request to free them, Russian news agencies reported Saturday.”
So far a total of four hostages have been released after international behind-the-scenes talks involving Qatar. Two of these were Americans from Chicago, which has led to some sectors within Israel voicing criticism that the government could be too focused only on freeing dual nationals, to satisfy international partners.
Concerning Russia’s request to see its nationals go free, Hamas said, “From the Russian side, via the Foreign Ministry, we received a list of citizens that have dual citizenship,” according to senior Hamas representative Moussa Abu Marzook.
“We are looking for those people… It is hard but we are looking. And when we find them, we will let them go,” he vowed. “We are very attentive to this list and will process it carefully because we consider Russia to be a closest friend.”
“About the peaceful citizens that were taken and that are now in Gaza, we treat them as guests,” Abu Marzook claimed further. He said of the Russian-Israelis, “We will free them as soon as there will be the conditions.”
These statements are likely genuine, given the past several years Hamas has done much to repair and grow its relations with Moscow. Importantly for Hamas, Russia is is among very few superpowers which has not designated the group a terrorist organization. Hamas wants to keep Moscow happy, given Russia’s ability to also influence Gulf countries when it comes to a potential future “solution” to the Gaza crisis.
The Russia-Hamas talks have angered Western officials and pundits…
Russia has no real leverage and no serious diplomatic role to play in the Middle East right now, so it’s remarkable and telling to see Russia take a flamethrower to its relationship with Israel over what is basically a photo op with Hamas leaders https://t.co/VpDuYDAgpb
— Gregg Carlstrom (@glcarlstrom) October 27, 2023
Interestingly, Hamas has also lately tried to claim that Israeli civilians were taken as “a result of chaos”. Well over 1,000 Israelis were massacred in the Oct.7 raids, however. Estimates put the death toll at over 1,400 – including women and children. But Hamas’ Abu Marzook has acknowledged that “dozens of Western and regional officials came to us to demand the liberation of the detainees.”
But again, the question of foreign nationals remains a sensitive subject within Israel, where PM Netanyahu and his top officials can’t being seen as favoring the foreign captives over Israelis.