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What is behind the Russia-Hamas rapprochement?

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In recent weeks there has been a considerable increase in the number of official high-level exchanges between the Russian government and Hamas. But could this deepening relationship help the latter break the isolation imposed on it by the United States and its allies?

In July, Hamas' Deputy Leader Mousa Abu Marzouk headed a delegation which visited Moscow and met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Envoy to the Middle East and Africa Mikhail Bogdanov.

In mid-October, they met again in Doha, Qatar, and then a few weeks later the Russian envoy had a phone conversation with Hamas's chief, Ismail Haniya.

In these conversations the two sides reportedly discussed US President Donald Trump's so-called "deal of the century", and the reasons for Hamas's rejection of it.

Statements by various Russian officials appearing to criticise the "deal of the century" have been welcomed in both Gaza and Ramallah. In mid-October, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that his country would support any deal that would bring peace, but called Washington's proposal "pretty vague".

Russia appears to position itself as a competitor to the US in mediating between Israel and Palestine. For this reason, it is now eager to engage not just the Palestinian Authority (PA), but Hamas as well.

Russian engagement with the movement did not happen in a vacuum; over the past decade, it has maintained relations with its leadership. While the US and the European Union classified Hamas as a "terror group" from the get-go, Russia has........

© Al Jazeera