Hamas condemns Israeli strikes as it seeks to restore ties with Syria

Hamas condemned the missile strikes on Damascus International Airport on Friday night which were reportedly carried out by Israel.

 A Palestinian Hamas supporter attends a protest to support Al-Aqsa mosque, in the northern Gaza Strip April 22, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)
A Palestinian Hamas supporter attends a protest to support Al-Aqsa mosque, in the northern Gaza Strip April 22, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)

Hamas said on Saturday that its stands with Syria in the face of the “recurring Israeli aggression on Syrian soil.”

Hamas condemned the missile strikes on Damascus International Airport on Friday night, which were reportedly carried out by Israel. Five Syrian soldiers were killed in the strikes, Syria’s official news agency Sana reported.

The strikes against Syria are an extension of the Israeli aggression on the entire region,” said Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem.

The latest Hamas denunciation of the alleged Israeli strikes on Syria is seen as part of the Islamist movement’s efforts to restore its ties with the Syrian regime.

Hamas, Syria's Assad's shaky ties

Relations between Hamas, an off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood organization, and Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime deteriorated shortly after the beginning of the civil war in Syria.

Hamas leaders, some of whom were based in Syria, refused to side with the Assad regime against the opposition groups, most of which were affiliated with Islamist organizations. In 2012, the Hamas offices in Syria were closed and the leaders of the group moved to Qatar.

Last Thursday, Hamas issued a statement in which it voiced support for Syria in the face of attempts to “divide and fragment it and keep it away from its effective historical role, especially regarding the Palestinian cause.”

The statement, seen by some Palestinian political analysts as an apology to the Assad regime, said that “Syria has embraced our Palestinian people and its resistance factions for decades, which requires standing with it in light of the brutal aggression to which it is being subjected.”

 ian refugees protest the Turkish offensive against Syria during a demonstration at the Domiz refugee camp on the outskirts of Dohuk, Iraq October 12, 2019 (credit: REUTERS/ARI JALAL) ian refugees protest the Turkish offensive against Syria during a demonstration at the Domiz refugee camp on the outskirts of Dohuk, Iraq October 12, 2019 (credit: REUTERS/ARI JALAL)

The statement expressed Hamas’s “appreciation to the leadership and people of the Syrian Arab Republic for standing with the Palestinian people and their just cause.”

Hamas looks forward to Syria “regaining its role and position in the Arab and Islamic nations and supports all sincere efforts for the stability, safety, prosperity, and progress of Syria,” the statement added. “We affirm our firm position on the unity of Syria’s land and people. We also affirm our firm strategy and keenness to develop and strengthen our relations with all those who support our cause and our resistance.”

“We affirm our firm position on the unity of Syria’s land and people. We also affirm our firm strategy and keenness to develop and strengthen our relations with all those who support our cause and our resistance.”

Hamas statement

Senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya was quoted as saying that his group’s leaders have agreed to search for ways to restore their relations with Syria. He did not provide further details, but said that he supports the move.

Palestinian sources revealed that the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist group had acted as a mediator between Hamas and Syria. On Saturday, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah praised Hamas for its decision to restore its relations with Syria.

Full normalization between Hamas and Syria?

The Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Akhbar newspaper revealed on Saturday that Hamas and Syrian officials held a series of meetings recently to pave the way for “full normalization” between the two sides.

Palestinian political analyst Naji Sharab described the Hamas statement that expressed support for Syria as a “clear and frank apology” to the Assad regime.

“The statement represents a clear retreat by Hamas from its previous position and even from the general stance of the Muslim Brotherhood organization,” Sharab told the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds.

Noting that Iran and Hezbollah had played a role in bringing about the reconciliation between the Palestinian Islamist group and Syria, Sharab pointed out the Hamas position was consistent with the recent rapprochement between Turkey and the Assad regime.

A Palestinian Authority official claimed that the Hamas decision to restore its ties with the Assad regime was taken under pressure from Iran.

“The Iranians threatened to halt funding to Hamas,” the official said. “Apparently, not all the Hamas leaders are happy about normalizing their group’s relations with Syria. The decision will cause a rift within Hamas.”

Several Palestinians, meanwhile, criticized Hamas for renewing its ties with the Assad regime which, they said, is responsible for the killing of thousands of Palestinians.

“Instead of issuing a lengthy statement in solidarity with the Assad regime, the Hamas leadership should have been preoccupied with the important situation in the West Bank,” political analyst Yasser Za’atreh commented on Twitter. “Bashar [Assad] has destroyed Syria, and complimenting him is a sin. [Hamas] ignored the feelings of the majority of the Palestinians.”

Hamas accused of 'political prostitution'

A Palestinian columnist condemned the Hamas move as “political prostitution” and said that the group has decided to align itself with the “murderous regime of Bashar Assad.”

Palestinian commentator Ibrahim Hamami described the Hamas decision as “disastrous and tragic.”

The London-based Action Group For Palestinians Of Syria, a human rights watchdog that monitors the situation of Palestinian refugees in war-torn Syria, pointed out that 4,121 Palestinians have been killed there since the beginning of the civil war in 2011.

The group revealed that more than 1,800 Palestinians remain in Syrian prisons, including 110 women. Another 636 Palestinians have died from torture in Syrian prisons, according to the group.

The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq, which represents several Sunni religious figures, also criticized Hamas for restoring its relations with the Syrian regime “at the expense of the oppressed and persecuted people of Syria.” The group said that the move will not achieve anything of importance to the Palestinian issue and the Palestinian people.