Is the Kremlin behind Hamas' attack on Israel?

Is the Kremlin behind Hamas' attack on Israel?
What will the war in Israel mean for Russia and Ukraine? / bne IntelliNews
By Ben Aris in Berlin October 11, 2023

Russia dunnit?

There have been several claims that Russia has played an instrumental role in backing the Palestinian attack on Israel on October 7; however, so far there is no conclusive evidence to support this claim at all.

Hamas said its attack was in response to Israeli actions against the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem's Temple Mount. The devastating attack was clearly well planned, long prepared and well supplied. Iran’s role in the attack remains a question of hot debate.

One of the hot button issues to emerge is reports of Nato weapons appearing on the battlefield in the hands of Hamas. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro strongly condemned the West for its failure to react to reports that Western weapons sent to Kyiv are now ending up on the global arms black market on October 10.

"The governments of the United States and European countries, which have spent billions of dollars and euros on weapons and military equipment, are now closing their eyes and ears to reports that the weapons sent to Ukraine are reaching the black market," the Venezuelan leader said on his personal television show broadcast on the state-run TV.

These reports have not been confirmed, and it seems more likely that it is disinformation, as many of the reports originated on pro-Russian Telegram channels. They are designed to substantiate long-standing claims of corruption in the Ukrainian military that officers have been stealing Nato supplies and selling them. Previous claims of the black market in Europe being flooded with weapons intended for Ukraine have been investigated but to date no evidence has been found to support them.

Former president Dmitry Medvedev and deputy head of the Security Council went even further.

"Well, well, my Nato friends, there you have it, don’t you? The weapons supplied to the neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine are being widely used in Israel," he wrote on his Telegram channel. Medvedev warned that this weaponry, "like the weapons left behind by the US forces that fled Afghanistan," would further be used uncontrollably in all trouble spots.

The increasingly bombastic Medvedev went on to assert that even before, "the corrupt Ukrainian authorities were in the habit of trading everything they laid hands on."

"They were stealing gas and oil, foods and materials. They were stealing everything that came their way. Further on it will only get worse. You should expect missiles, tanks and aeroplanes from Kyiv to surface on the black market soon," Medvedev said as cited by the Russian press.

Another possibility has been suggested that it was Russia that sent Hamas arms captured from Ukrainian troops.

Russia has transferred Western-made weapons captured in Ukraine to the extremist organisation Hamas fighting against Israel in an effort to discredit Kyiv, Ukraine's military intelligence (HUR) reported on October 9.

"The Russian intelligence service has already transferred to Hamas terrorists captured weapons made in the United States and EU countries, captured during the fighting in Ukraine. The next step, according to the Russians' plan, should be fake accusations of the Ukrainian military of selling Western weapons to terrorists on a regular basis," the intelligence said in the Telegram channel on October 9.

HUR went to claim that Moscow plans to falsely accuse the Ukrainian military of selling weaponry provided by the US and EU to Hamas.

"As part of the Kremlin's disinformation campaign, these fakes should form the basis of a number of 'revealing articles' and 'investigations' in Western media," the HUR wrote.

According to the intelligence agency, Russian special services plan to use Ruslan Syrovyi, a senior lieutenant from the Ukrainian Border Service who has committed treason and fled to Moscow, as a "source" for this campaign.

"Another provocation by the enemy aims to discredit the Armed Forces of Ukraine and make Western partners cease military aid to our country," HUR said, as cited by Kyiv Independent.

Unusually, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken contradicted this theory, saying he does not believe that the Hamas attack on Israel relates to an attempt to divert the West's attention from the war in Ukraine, implying Russia was not involved in the attack.

Israel does not believe that Russia was in any way connected to last week’s Hamas attack, the country’s ambassador to Moscow, Alexander Ben Zvi, said in an interview with Kommersant on October 12, calling the idea “complete nonsense.”

Ben Zvi was asked to comment on allegations against Russia on social media and by a number of news outlets that it may have been involved in the attack and that the situation in Gaza is beneficial to Moscow, as it supposedly draws Washington’s attention away from Ukraine.

“Firstly, we do not believe that Russia was involved in this in any way,” Ben Zvi said. “Secondly, those who believe that the United States will have to redirect some serious resources to Israel are greatly mistaken,” he added, noting that the US is a strategic partner and will continue to supply it with weapons. “Russia understands this. So all the aforementioned claims are pure conspiracy,” the ambassador said.

But a thick fog of war has settled over the conflict as social media are now awash with claims and counter-claims. The water is already muddied to the extent it has become extremely difficult to verify any information coming out of the war zone.

Zelenskiy links Russian and Israeli wars

Who did what remains confused, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy expressed a much more real concern in the first days of the conflict. Zelenskiy has admitted that Bankova is afraid the outbreak of war between Israel and the Palestinians will distract the world’s attention from the war in Ukraine and affect the flow of funds and arms to Kyiv.

"The global community may become less attentive to Ukraine," Zelenskiy said in an interview to France 2 on October 11. “If the aid to Kyiv ceases, time will be on Russia’s side."

Zelenskiy has been masterful in rallying global opinion to his side through his speeches and tireless globetrotting diplomacy. After the start of the war in Israel, he has been quick to link the two conflicts.

“We have data very clearly proving that Russia is interested in inciting war in the Middle East. So that a new source of pain and suffering would erode global unity and exacerbate cleavages and controversies, helping Russia in destroying freedom in Europe,” Zelenskiy said in his daily address to the people.

The Kremlin immediately denied that it wants a war in the Middle East. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's statements that Russia allegedly wants to start a war “have no grounds,” Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media on October 11.

In response to a question about how the Kremlin saw the Ukrainian claims that Russia’s aim was to trigger a war in the Middle East, Peskov said: "Negatively. They have absolutely no grounds at all."

According to the latest official data, the clashes and bombardments left almost 700 Palestinians dead and over 3,700 wounded and more than 900 Israelis were killed and about 2,600 wounded, according to the most recent reports.

Nevertheless, the surprise conflict is a boon for Putin, as it stretches an already fractious West, and will add to the demands on their already depleted stock of arms and ammo.

Ukraine’s funding in danger

Ukraine will run out of money if the international community reduces its funding next year. The government just passed a draft 2024 budget which includes a $42bn deficit and half of the government’s expenditure next year is supposed to be sourced from international partners.

US President Joe Biden has also attempted to link the Ukraine and Israeli conflicts. A new Ukrainian allocation of $300mn was removed from an emergency spending bill passed in the first week of October that has effectively frozen US funding for Ukraine for the meantime, although the Pentagon says there is still $5.2bn in the kitty from previous funding rounds, enough to last six months.

This week Biden proposed a new $100bn package for Ukraine, enough for two years, that was upgraded to $200mn within days, to remove the issue from the table before the US presidential election campaign starts in earnest next year. He also suggested linking this with a bill to provide Israel with funds to fight its war against the Palestinians as a way of getting reluctant Republicans on board.

The package will include the AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile, artillery munitions for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), TOW anti-tank missiles, and 155mm and 105mm rounds – all munitions Ukraine desperately needs.

Israel is also asking the US to restock its arms supplies, including 155mm high-explosive shells. "That may irritate supporters of Ukraine, since this ammunition is in short supply and is badly needed by Kyiv," the Washington Post reported this week. US ammo stocks have already been depleted from 19 months of war in Ukraine, and especially the 155mn shells, which are the main martial workhorse for both sides.

Supporters of the enlarged Israeli-Ukraine package expect to see it pass between October 16 and November 17, when the current temporary spending bill expires.

Ukraine fatigue

The prospects of funding for Ukraine have been weakening as Ukraine fatigue amongst Western allies has clearly been building in recent months.

The EU is also discussing a large €50bn four-year Special Ukraine fund package, but support amongst EU members for such a big allocation is not universal. Countries like Hungary have been cool on the war and sanctions on Russia from the start and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has gone out of his way to visit Moscow in the last 19 months despite Putin’s pariah nature. Hungary remains heavily dependent on Russian energy and raw material imports.

Likewise, Austria, which is also dependent on Russia for energy, has been cool on sanctions and continues to maintain ties with Russia.

Slovakia is the most recent addition to this club, after Robert Fico campaigned on the issue of ending military support for Ukraine and cutting its EU funding. Orban has also called for cutting the mooted €50bn Ukraine Special fund in half.

Fico’s SMER entered a coalition consisting of SMER, the new centrist Voice-Social Democracy and right-wing Slovak National Party on October 11. The Slovak National Party will give the new government a more anti-Ukraine slant than if the Slovakian Christian Democrats has been included in the coalition, but as SMER didn’t dominate the elections, its anti-Ukraine proclivity will be tempered by the more moderate Voice-Social Democracy, say analysts.


Tensions in the Middle East are now already fraught following the attack on October 7 and several major players are vying for the role of intermediator in the conflict.

The Arab League will work to "stop the bloodshed" in Israel and Gaza, Russia's Foreign Minister said October 9 as he met the group's chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit, who flew to Moscow for talks following the unprecedented attack on Israel.

"I am sure that Russia and the Arab League [will co-operate above all else to stop the bloodshed," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

The Arab League has recently been revitalised as the countries in the Middle East reach out to settle old scores and form a more united block. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Iran recently re-established diplomatic relations after an eight-year hiatus and Syria was readmitted to the Arab League after being expelled in 2011.

Following their meeting, Lavrov called for an urgent UN meeting, saying the decisions on creating an independent Palestinian state must be implemented “right away”, in comments that will play well to the Arab Street.

"It’s no longer possible to postpone the Palestinian issue; the UN’s resolutions must be implemented," he said following talks with Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Gheit.

The presidents of Russia and Turkey, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said during a phone conversation on October 10 that Israel and Palestine need to immediately cease fire and resume negotiations, which Moscow and Ankara are ready to facilitate, the Kremlin press service has said.

"The need for both sides to immediately cease fire and resume negotiations was emphasised. Mutual readiness to actively promote them was expressed," the press service said in a statement.

Israel is close to the US, and the largest recipient of US aid, but Hamas has long maintained good ties with Moscow, which is also enjoying an increasingly close relationship with Iran, Hamas’ main backers. Ironically, Israel also maintains good relations with Russia thanks to Russia’s increasing sway in the Middle East, and especially with Iran and Syria. It is notable that Israel has largely stayed aloof from the Ukraine war, despite being in a position to supply Ukraine with a considerable amount of arms and ammo.

Europe is also in competition with Turkey in the Caucasus in the dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan following Baku’s so-called anti-terrorist operation in the enclave on September 19 that has ejected 120,000 Armenians from the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave in one of the biggest ethnic cleaning operations since WWII.

Armenia has turned to the US and France for support, while Baku, with Turkey’s backing, has refused EU-led mediation and wants Moscow to broker peace talks. Both Baku and Ankara want to increase their sway in the region and reduce Europe’s influence. As Moscow maintains close ties with both Baku and Ankara it would be happy to see another piece of Europe hived off and added to its camp of supporters in the process.

Following the attacks on Israel, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov immediately said any solution has to end with meeting Palestine’s long-standing demands for an independent state and blamed the US for failing to follow through on multiple UN resolutions to that effect. Putin and Erdogan repeated this policy in their phone call, agreeing that a long-term solution to the Middle East conflict is possible "solely on the basis of the two-state formula, approved by the UN Security Council" – the creation of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and its capital in East Jerusalem.


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