A Hamas delegation led by the movement’s leader, Ismail Haniyeh, was set to visit Saudi Arabia on Sunday after years of tense relations, Palestinian media outlets reported.
The delegation is visiting Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah, a nonobligatory Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, but has “not ruled out” holding meetings with Saudi officials as well, according to Hamas-affiliated Al Resalah news site.
Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas’s diaspora office, and Hamas officials Musa Abu Marzouk and Zaher Jabarin are part of the delegation, the report said.
Hamas hopes the visit will help improve its relations with Saudi Arabia, London-based Al-Araby Al-Jadeed news site reported Sunday.
In recent years, relations between Hamas and Saudi Arabia have been tense. Saudi Arabia arrested several Hamas members for supporting a terrorist organization, and Hamas expressed outrage over the arrests. Tensions rose as Hamas drew nearer to Iran and due to its links with the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as disagreements over reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.
Tensions between Saudi Arabia, Hamas cooled in recent months
In recent months, tensions between the two began to improve, and Saudi Arabia released some of the suspects who were arrested in October and February.
Hamas wants to reconcile with Saudi Arabia, Haniyeh told Russia Today news network in September.
After two Palestinians were released by Saudi Arabia in February, Hamas said in a statement: “We affirm our keenness on positive relations with our brothers in Saudi Arabia and all brotherly countries in the service of the Palestinian cause and our Arab and Islamic nation.”
It said it hoped the decision to release the prisoners would be “a prelude to opening a new page with the brothers in Saudi Arabia.”
After two Palestinians were released by Saudi authorities in February, the Hamas movement stated "We affirm our keenness on positive relations with our brothers in Saudi Arabia and all brotherly countries in the service of the Palestinian cause and our Arab and Islamic nation."
The movement added at the time that it hoped that the decision to release the prisoners would be "a prelude to opening a new page with the brothers in Saudi Arabia."
In March, after diplomatic relations were restored between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Hamas said in a statement: “We believe that this important step is in the interest of the Palestinian cause and supports the steadfastness of our people in the face of the occupation and its continuous aggression against our land, people and sanctities.”