Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah has ordered Palestinian Sunni group Hamas to have its operatives leave Lebanon effective immediately.
A senior Hezbollah security official informed Ali Baraka, the Hamas representative in Lebanon, of the demand, the Middle East Online news agency reported on Thursday.
The move came because of Hamas support for the Syrian rebels fighting to oust President Bashar Assad, according to the report. Both Hezbollah and Syria are allies of Iran, which provides them with financial and military support.
Baraka denied the report to Lebanese paper Aliwaa
, saying Hezbollah officials in Lebanon were surprised by the Middle East Online story.
Abu Imad Rifai, the Islamic Jihad representative in Lebanon, also stressed to the paper that Hamas remained in Lebanon and that no changes had been made.
Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the The Jerusalem Post
from Washington, “Whether or not Hamas is being driven out of Lebanon is not as important as the fact that it has been minimized in the Iranian ‘Axis of Resistance.’” Hamas abandoned its headquarters in Damascus last year, in a sign of tension with Iran, Hezbollah and Syria, said Schanzer. Hamas is getting far less aid from Iran now, and more from Sunni sponsors such as Qatar and Turkey, he said.
Meanwhile, Palestinians in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp, southeast of Sidon, burned aid that was delivered by Hezbollah, apparently to show their displeasure with the movement’s support for the Assad regime.
The spillover of the Syrian war continued on Thursday as rockets hit northern Lebanon while President Michel Suleiman was touring an army checkpoint in Arsal in northeast Lebanon. The attack wounded one person.