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Ex-Hamas official freed in Damascus

April 18, 2012 04:11

Armed gunmen captured Mustafa Lidawi on Saturday as tension rises between group and its former patron.

Hamas supporters

Hamas supporters 370. (photo credit:REUTERS)

A former top Hamas official was released Monday night after being captured two days earlier in Damascus, Palestinian media reported.

Mustafa Lidawi’s family told the Ma’an News Agency he was released after unidentified gunmen held him for two days in the Syrian capital. Lidawi was captured near his home Saturday night in Damascus’s sprawling Yarmouk refugee camp, according to the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat.

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Israel expelled Lidawi, 64, from the Gaza Strip in 1991.

Since then he has held a number of high-level positions with Hamas, including as the group’s representative in Syria, Lebanon and Iran. In recent years he has been based primarily in Tehran, where he works as a columnist for Arabic-language newspapers.

As the violent Syrian uprising enters its second year, Hamas has been keen to distance itself from its one-time patron in Damascus.

In February, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh expressed support for the predominantly Sunni insurgents fighting President Bashar Assad’s regime – the first time the group has come out publicly against its former benefactor. Since then the group is believed to have moved most of its leadership out of its former headquarters in the Syrian capital in favor of cities in Egypt, Jordan and Qatar.

Yarmouk – Syria’s biggest Palestinian community with 140,000 people – has not been immune to the violence rocking the country. Last month an explosion targeting the Palestinian Liberation Army militia killed three people in the camp, and last summer at least 14 people were killed there in clashes between supporters and opponents of the Syrian president.

In August thousands of Palestinians fled a refugee camp near Latakia as the coastal city came under army fire.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.
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