Damascus criticises Hamas leader following re-election

AFP, Ahram Online , Wednesday 3 Apr 2013

Pro-Assad Syrian newspaper slams re-election of Khaled Meshaal as leader of Palestinian resistance movement Hamas

Khaled Meshaal
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal (Photo: Reuters)

A Syrian regime newspaper on Wednesday slammed militant Palestinian movement Hamas and its leader Khaled Meshaal for breaking with Damascus, accusing them of giving up on resistance against Israel.

The report comes two days after Meshaal's re-election as head of Hamas's politburo for another four-year term.

Hamas has shifted "the gun from the shoulder of resistance (against Israel) to the shoulder of compromise," Al-Thawra daily said.

"Today, as Meshaal becomes the head of Hamas for the fifth time... the West Bank, Gaza and the whole of occupied Palestine have no reason to celebrate."

Meshaal "cannot believe his luck. After an acclaimed history of struggle, he has returned to the safe Qatari embrace, wealthy and fattened in the age of the Arab Spring's storms," the newspaper added.

After years of alignment with Damascus, during which he used Damascus as a base, Meshaal relocated in 2012 to Doha, severing ties with President Bashar Al-Assad and declaring his support for the revolt against his regime.

The Assad regime, supported by Iran and a longtime backer of Shia Lebanese movement Hezbollah, fiercely criticised Meshaal's decision to break with the regime, recalling Damascus's willingness to host the Hamas leader when other regional capitals refused to do so.

Meshaal told the BBC in February that the Islamist movement had been "forced out" of Damascus due to political disagreements with the regime on dealing with the two-year popular uprising in the country.

"There is no doubt that we have disagreed with the Syrian regime on the manner with which they managed the crisis, and their resorting to the security-military option," the BBC's Middle East News website quoted Meshaal as saying.

"The massacre taking place in Syria pains us very much," he said.

However, Meshaal pointed out that Al-Assad still maintains a pro-Hamas position. Meshaal revealed that Al-Assad's relations with Iran remain another source of deterioration in political relations between Damascus and Hamas.

In January, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Syrian state security forces had executed two Hamas members after their arrest, throwing their corpses near the camp-based Aisha Mosque in a southern countryside area near Damascus.

Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas government in Gaza, had offered his support to the Syrian opposition during the ongoing armed insurgency against Al-Assad's regime, saying it was striving for "freedom, democracy and reform."

Such statements signified a shift in Hamas's previously neutral position regarding the complex political crisis in Syria.

Syria welcomed Hamas in 1999 after Jordanian authorities expelled the movement's leader-in-exile Meshaal.

Hamas, which is ideologically affiliated with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, distanced itself from Al-Assad last year after the Damascus regime reportedly widened its crackdown to include Sunni Muslim protesters and rebels.

Al-Assad's government consists largely of followers of the Alawite sect of Islam. Hamas, along with the Muslim Brotherhood, is Sunni.

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