Senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar said in a recent interview that soon after his first meeting with Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander wound up giving him $22 million to take back with him to the Gaza Strip.

Speaking with Iran’s Al-Alam TV on Dec. 27, al-Zahar—Hamas’s foreign minister at the time the incident took place—related that Soleimani would have given him more, but that $22 million was all the nine-person Hamas delegation could carry. “Each suitcase weighed 40 kilograms [88 pounds],” he said.

After he was appointed foreign minister in 2006, said al-Zahar, “I traveled to a number of countries, one of which was Iran. I met with the [Iranian] foreign minister and then some Iranian officials.”

He also met with Iran’s president at the time, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. That meeting, said al-Zahar, was “a positive one.”

“We made a number of requests, and [Ahmadinejad] referred me to Qassem Soleimani. In that meeting, we said that our main problems were the wages of our government employees—people who needed social aid and the aid that had to be given to the people—when a siege had been imposed on us after our success in the elections,” he said.

“The decision was taken immediately. I was supposed to fly out the following day,” he continued. “I discovered $22 million waiting for me in suitcases at the airport. We had agreed on a larger sum, but there were only nine of us, and this was all we could carry.”

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