BEIRUT: Syrian authorities have closed several Damascus offices of Hamas amid a deepening rift with the Palestinian Islamist movement they had long supported, a human rights watchdog said yesterday. On Monday, the authorities “closed the office of Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Meshaal in Mazzeh district and the offices of political bureau members Imad Al Alami and Ezzat Al Rishq in Mashrouh Dummar district,” the Syrian Observatory for Human rights said.
The offices are now under surveillance by security services, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said. A Palestinian official in Damascus said that the offices were already closed but that the authorities had now forbidden Hamas any access.
Damascus has long supported Hamas, offering it safe haven and facilities in Syria, but opposition activists say some Hamas fighters have recently joined forces with rebels fighting President Bashar Al Assad’s regime.Syrian members of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, from which Hamas sprung, were among the first to participate when protests erupted against Assad’s rule in March last year.
As peaceful demonstrations turned into an armed rebellion, reports said Hamas had quietly moved its offices from Syria, evacuating most of its members, while publicly denying it had shifted its headquarters. The rupture went public when a news presenter on Syrian television accused Meshaal of having “sold out the Palestinian resistance” after he expressed his support for the Syrian uprising.
Alami, who lived in exile in Syria, returned to Gaza in February after a 23-year absence. Meshaal relocated to the Qatari capital Doha, while his number two, Mussa Abu Marzuq, moved to Cairo.
Members of Hamas have fought alongside the rebels in Damascus and its environs, according to opposition activists in the capital.
However other Palestinian factions, notably the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command headed by Ahmed Jibril, have fought alongside government troops. More than 30 people were killed in fierce clashes between troops and rebels around the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus on Sunday and Monday, Palestinian sources said.AFP