Hamas quietly scales back presence in Syria

Islamist group's officials returning to Gaza amid unrest in Syria; Hamas looks to bolster presence in other Arab countries.

By REUTERS
December 4, 2011 19:29
2 minute read.
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal 311 Reu. (photo credit: Khaled Al Hariri / Reuters)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later

Dozens of Hamas operatives have quietly returned to Gaza from Damascus as the Islamist group scales back its presence in Syria and gauges the uncertain future of President Bashar Assad, diplomats said on Sunday.

Officially, Hamas leaders are sticking to their denial they plan to quit the Syrian capital, where the group keeps its main headquarters outside the Gaza Strip.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


RELATED:
Abdullah meets with Abbas over Fatah-Hamas talks
'Hamas-Fatah unity would harm diplomatic process'

But diplomats and regional sources said the Hamas delegation in Damascus, which once numbered hundreds of Palestinian officials and their relatives, had shrunk to a few dozen.

Departures were speeded up, one regional intelligence source said, by the Arab League's suspension of Syria last month over its military crackdown on protests rocking the Assad government.

Diplomats said dozens of Hamas operatives and their families, who had lived in Syria since the 1990s, and others who moved there in recent years have returned to Gaza via Egypt in recent weeks.

Hamas would keep a skeletal presence in Syria to "book a seat in a post-Assad era," one diplomat said.

JPOST VIDEOS THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU:


"Meanwhile, Hamas officials are on planes most of the time, bolstering ties with other countries like Egypt, Qatar, Turkey, Sudan, or in contact to explore new bases and not a sole base," the diplomat added.

Asking not to be identified, the diplomat said: "Hamas will pull out of Syria in the right time but not for good."

Hamas caught between debt to Assad, pan-Arab opinion

When asked about Hamas's presence in Damascus, Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman said: "There is no change."

In Beirut on Friday, a Hamas representative said the group was "still committed to supporting Assad."

But, one intelligence source said, although Hamas "owes Syria a lot for its support, it doesn't want to be on the wrong side of pan-Arab public opinion."

Angering Syria, Hamas has refused to hold rallies in Palestinian refugee camps in support of the Assad government, which has sunk deeper into international isolation.

Tensions with Damascus rose further when Hamas opted not to sign a statement by nine other Palestinian groups, including President Mahmoud Abbas's Palestine Liberation Organization, in support of the Syrian leader. Hamas, which Israel and many Western powers consider a terrorist group, won a 2006 Palestinian election and, a year later, seized the Gaza Strip following a schism with its secular rival, Fatah.

Click for full JPost coverage

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Turkey Investigating Khashoggi Murder
October 19, 2018
Leaks, media and the Khashoggi affair

By SETH J. FRANTZMAN