Palestinian Hamas militants take part in a rally in memory of their seven comrades, who were killed when a tunnel collapsed close to the Gaza Strip's eastern border with Israel.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Persian Gulf nation of Qatar has requested that members of Hamas leave the country after receiving “external pressure” to act against the Gaza-based terrorist group.
According to Lebanese news agency Al Mayadeen, an unidentified Qatari envoy reportedly met with senior Hamas officials in Doha Saturday to hand the group a list of those designated to leave the country. Individuals on the list include figures responsible for coordinating between Doha and Hamas members in the West Bank.
The Qatari envoy, according to Al Mayadeen, expressed “regret” over the decision, saying “external pressure” forced the decision.
The Lebanese news agency also hinted that Israel was behind the move, claiming the names on the expulsion list were provided by detainees who were arrested and interrogated by Israeli authorities.
It remains unclear how many Hamas officials will be deported from the small Arab nation. Al Mayadeen added that no time-table has been set for their departure.
In response to the report, Knesset opposition leader Zionist Union MK Issac Herzog, praised Qatar’s supposed decision to back away from Hamas, saying the move indicates shifting trends in the region.
“The decision by US President Donald Trump to declare Hamas a terrorist organization, and Qatar’s decision to distance itself from the group, foretells unprecedented movement in the Middle East,” Herzog said in a statement. “There’s no doubt that there is an unprecedented opportunity in the region.”
Herzog continued by asking rhetorically: “Will Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu take advantage of it is the question?,” before answering “I doubt it.”
While addressing the leaders of 55 Muslim countries in Riyadh late last month, Trump labeled Hamas a terrorist organization, adding it is the responsibility of countries in the region to combat the “radicalization” of such groups.
“The true toll of ISIS, al-Qaida, Hezbollah, Hamas, and so many others, must be counted not only in the number of dead; it must also be counted in generations of vanished dreams,” Trump said.
Hamas almost immediately condemned the president’s statements, saying they show his “complete bias” toward Israel.
“The statement describing Hamas as a terrorist group is rejected and is a distortion of our image and shows a complete bias toward the Zionist occupation,” a Hamas spokesperson said in a statement.
The US State Department designated Hamas a terrorist organization in 1997.Yasser Okbi contributed to this report.