Gazans celebrate the 27th anniversary of Hamas' founding.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Seeking to mend the rift between Hamas and Syria's embattled regime, on Friday a senior official from the Palestinian Islamist group called for the restoration of ties with Damascus which had collapsed following the militant group's departure from Syria after the outbreak of rebel violence in 2011.
In an interview with Lebanon's Daily Star, Raafat Murra, representative of Hamas' Beirut bureau denied any falling out with Assad and insisted that Hamas had no stake in his overthrow.
“The Hamas Movement has had a clear stance on the Arab social changes that are happening in the Arab world. The Hamas movement has declared from the very beginning that peoples have the right to seek rightful social, civil and political demands," he told the Daily Star.
According to reports that surfaced in 2013 in The Times
of London, Hamas' armed wings, the Izzadin Kassam brigades, were training members of the Free Syria Army in rebel-held neighborhoods in Damascus
. Hamas denied these allegations while Syria's state-run media called the group's top political leader Khaled Meshaal, who had enjoyed the protection of the Assad government before leaving to Qatar under similar circumstances, "ungrateful and treacherous."
“Hamas has no military presence in Syria or in any other Arab country,” Murra said. “Hamas does not fight any Arab regime or any Arab society and does not interfere in the internal affairs of any society.”
Yet Murra's claim that Hamas has no forces deployed in the surrounding Arab states has been contradicted by senior Gaza officials in the past. In February, Mahmoud Zahar called on Lebanese and Syrian members of the aforementioned Izzadin Kassam brigades to launch attacks against Israel and insisted that more Palestinian in those countries should be trained to that end.
Asked about Hamas' potential return to Syria, Murra provided a carefully measured reply, suggesting that the organization's comeback "should be the result of dialogue and understanding. It’s not a matter of location. We realize the importance of Syria, its standing and its geographical location and the historical links between Palestine and Syria,” he said.
Hamas, which was founded as the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, belongs to the Sunni denomination of Islam, but has collaborated with the Alawite-Shi'ite regime in Damascus as well as Shi'ite Hezbollah and their co-religionist sponsor, Iran, who has armed both in the past.
Murra also spoke of the previously strong relationship between Hamas and Hezbollah. After Hamas' souring of relations with Syria, it's links with the Iranian-funded Lebanese militia also came under scrutiny.
According to Murra "there is no hostility or a break [in ties] between the Hamas movement and Hezbollah. We are keen on understanding based on Palestine, the resistance and confronting the Zionist dangers."
Meanwhile, Hamas has also sought to draw attention to what it says is an impending official visit to Tehran
which is meant to reinforce it's relationship with the Islamic State. There has been no word from the Islamic Republic on such a visit nor reports of any representative of the Gaza-based militant in Iran.