BEIRUT - Syrian state-run television has bitterly criticized
the leader of the Hamas for turning his back on
President Bashar Assad, his one-time protector.
Syria welcomed Hamas
in 1999 after Jordanian authorities expelled its chief Khaled
Mashaal, accusing him of using the country for illicit
Mashaal and Assad's relationship, built on enmity to Israel,
fractured as Assad cracked down on opposition protests that grew into an armed
uprising. Mashaal shut down Hamas's offices in Damascus in February and left the
"Syria embraced Mashaal like an orphan looking for shelter after
other countries shut the door in his face," Syrian television said in a
commentary broadcast on Monday evening.
"As long as you are in an
emotional state regarding the suffering of the Syrian people, Mashaal, why did
you not give the same due attention to the people of Palestine ... in occupied
territories?" TV said.
Syria and Iran formed an "axis of resistance" with
Lebanon's Hezbollah movement and Palestinian militant groups to oppose Israel,
which has occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967 and also occupied
southern Lebanon for two decades.
But Hamas, whose ideological roots stem
from the Sunni Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, distanced itself from Assad last
year as he cracked down on mainly Sunni Muslim protesters and
Hamas's political leadership moved to Egypt, which now has an
Islamist government following the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak last
Mashaal himself moved to Qatar, a Sunni Muslim Gulf country that
has supported the rebels fighting to topple Assad.
The verbal attack
appears to be a reaction to Mashaal's appearance at a conference of Turkish
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party on Sunday. Erdogan has called for
Assad to step down.
Around half a million Palestinians live in Syria.
Many have become disillusioned with Assad since fighting started in the
Palestinian refugee districts of Yarmouk and Hajar al-Aswad, which now stand in
ruin from artillery and aerial attacks.
Activists say 30,000 people have
been killed in the protests and during the ensuing civil war that has divided