'Hamas breaks up Syria rallies in Gaza'

Islamist group ruling Gaza does not want public displays against the Syrian Assad regime, 'Asharq Alawsat' reports.

Protesters against Syrian President Bashar Assad 311 (R) (photo credit: Osman Orsal / Reuters)
Protesters against Syrian President Bashar Assad 311 (R)
(photo credit: Osman Orsal / Reuters)
Hamas is opposed to public demonstrations against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the Gaza Strip, and has broken up demonstrations in favor of the Syrian opposition, pan-Arab Asharq Alawsat reported Saturday.
Hamas security forces "forcefully" dispersed a pro-Syrian opposition protest in Gaza City just days before Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is expected to head to Iran, according to the report.
Hamas forces also arrested the head of a group spearheading the pro-Syrian opposition protest movement in Gaza, Al-Sheikh Yasser Abu Houli. The Salafist group, "Ibn Baz," runs under the banner "support from the people of Palestine for the oppressed people of Syria," according to the London-based newspaper.
According to an unnamed Palestinian source, Hamas had encouraged protest leaders in the Strip to carry out their support of the Syrian opposition less visibly, and to avoid media coverage. Perhaps wary of the Gaza leadership's political bureau in Syria, Hamas is trying to maintain a neutral position on the Syria issue, the report said.
The Islamist group is backed by Iran, which also backs Syria and Hezbollah as part of a regional alliance. Hamas does not want to be seen as putting that necessary alliance in jeopardy.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh will embark on a trip to Tehran next week, but the report said it was not clear if the prime minister and Iranian President Mahmoud Abbas would discuss Hamas's position vis a vis Syria.
While rumors ricochet over the future of the Islamist group's presence in Syria, Hamas maintains that it will not close its headquarters in Damascus. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Saturday that the group had no plans to move the bureau, saying "we are still there," and attributing the movement of Palestinian leaders to Palestinian reconciliation politicking.