A senior Hamas official in the West Bank is facing sharp criticism for stating that toppling the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad is more urgent than “jihad in Palestine.”

Abdel Aziz Dweik, speaker of the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Legislative Council, told the Arabic newspaper Echorouk that the PLC fully supported the Syrian opposition in its efforts to “stop the bloodshed, which is a priority over anything else, including Jihad in Palestine.” Keeping Assad’s regime in power, he continued, was tantamount to “a stab in the heart and chest,” arguing that removing the Syrian dictatorship would pave the way for boosting the Palestinian cause.

Dweik, who is Hamas’s top political representative in the West Bank, said that although the Palestinian issue remains at the top of the agenda of Muslim scholars, halting the bloodshed in Syria has become a top and urgent priority for Muslims.

Fatah spokesman Ahmed Assaf condemned Dweik’s statements as “extremely dangerous and harmful to the national interests of the Palestinian people.”

Assaf said that involving the Palestinians in the Syrian conflict and other internal Arab disputes would cause severe damage to the Palestinians’ “national project.”

Dweik’s statements do not represent the Palestinians, he added.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, a Palestinian terrorist group affiliated with the Assad regime, also condemned Dweik’s remarks.

A spokesman for the Damascus- based group said that the statements reflect the “depth of the crisis and frustration among those who are conspiring against Syria and its leadership.”

The spokesman identified the alleged plotters against Assad’s regime as the US, Israel and their “Arab helpers, including the Muslim Brotherhood.”

In response, Dweik said that his remarks had been taken out of context. “Jihad and resistance have never stopped on the land of Palestine,” Dweik explained. “There is no priority over jihad and the liberation of Palestine.”

Dweik said that he what he meant in the interview was that halting the bloodshed in Syria should take priority over everything else, “and this does not mean jihad in Palestine.”

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