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After Talks About Assad’s Refusal: Hamas Denies Request to Move to Syria

Hamas began moving towards reconciliation with the regime in 2021, but their relation unstable, Enab Baladi writes.
Hamas Assad
After Talks About Assad’s Refusal: Hamas Denies Request to Move to Syria

The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) denied on Wednesday, April 24, that it had submitted a request to transfer its office to Syria.

According to a press statement by the movement, published through its Telegram channel, Hamas refuted the claims made by the Lebanese newspaper Al-Liwaa on Tuesday regarding a supposed request to relocate to Syria.

Hamas stated, “The movement did not make any such request to sisterly Syria or any other entity.”

On Tuesday, Al-Liwaa cited unnamed “informed sources” claiming that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had rejected the idea of Hamas relocating to Syria. This decision purportedly came after Qatar announced the termination of Hamas leaders’ residency in its territory.

Al-Liwaa reported that Assad conveyed his firm opposition to discussing the matter, citing Hamas’s alleged involvement in “spreading chaos and inciting conflict among Syrians.” Additionally, the newspaper claimed that Hamas fighters participated in battles in the Yarmouk camp south of Damascus.

The newspaper’s sources also suggested that Assad declined any possibility of hosting prominent Hamas figures, particularly Khaled Mechaal, the head of the movement abroad, and Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas political bureau, in Damascus for discussions on relocation. Assad reportedly informed the Iranians that his support for Palestinians in the Gaza war is channelled through Tehran, rather than direct engagement with Hamas.

Unstable relationship

Hamas severed its relationship with the Syrian regime after the onset of the Syrian Revolution in 2011. However, after a decade of estrangement, including the closure of its offices in Damascus and the departure of its leaders from Syrian territory, it began moving towards reconciliation with the regime in 2021. This reconciliation was mediated by the Lebanese Hezbollah. Hamas expressed its desire for rapprochement through a statement, followed by a visit by a delegation of Palestinian factions to Damascus, where they met with Assad on October 19, 2022.

At the time, Hamas attributed the strain in its relationship with the regime to “individual mistakes” by some of its members, which were not endorsed by its leadership. It emphasized its commitment to this new path of reconciliation with the regime, aiming to “overcome the lingering effects of the past and look towards the future.”

The pro-regime newspaper Al-Watan reported during that period that relations with Hamas would now be limited to its role as a “resistance” faction within a delegation representing all Palestinian factions. Individual representation of Hamas in Syria would not be allowed, and Syria expressed its readiness to host Hamas as a “resistance” entity rather than as a part of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In an interview with Sky News Arabia in August 2023, Assad criticized Hamas leaders, characterizing their stance as “a blend of betrayal and hypocrisy.” He accused them of claiming to be part of the resistance while also associating with what he referred to as “the flag of the French occupation of Syria.” Assad clarified that the current relationship with Hamas is based on broader principles.

During the ongoing war in Gaza since October 7, 2023, the Syrian regime refrained from taking an official position, and demonstrations in solidarity with Gaza were notably absent from the streets of Damascus.

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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