Powered by WebAds

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hamas between a rock and a hard place

The Syrian uprising has left Hamas between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, Syrians who claim 'Palestinian' roots have suffered along with the rest of Syria during Assad's crackdown. On the other hand, most of Hamas' leadership lives in Damascus. What's a terror organization to do?
Syria's crackdown on government opponents has deeply embarrassed Hamas, which is anxious not to anger its backers in Damascus while at the same time hoping not to alienate its supporters at home.

Syrian President Bashar Assad's five-month purge of protesters has gathered pace since the start of August, causing thousands of Palestinians to flee a refugee camp in the city of Latakia this week as Syrian security forces attacked the area.

Ordinary Palestinians watching from a distance in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been swift to denounce the violence, but the Islamist group Hamas has itself said nothing and tried to prevent public displays of anti-Syrian sentiment.


"If they keep silent they will score points with the Syrian regime," said political analyst Talal Okal, explaining that such a stance could be politically costly in the Palestinian territories, especially in Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas.

"The people will not accept it and will see it as a betrayal of the Palestinian refugees in Syria," he added.

A number of Hamas leaders, including its chief, Khaled Meshaal, moved to Syria after they were expelled from Jordan in 1999. From there they hone their strategy against Israel and are relatively free to move around the region.

But the Sunni Muslim group's dependence on Assad, who is from Syria's minority Alawite community, is proving a boon for some Hamas' rivals, who have been highly critical of the violence that rocked the Al Raml refugee camp.

"This is a crime against humanity," said Yasser Abed Rabbo, the West Bank-based secretary general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

His view was shared by many in Hamas's backyard.


Hamas, which has built a reputation as a liberation movement among its supporters, is clearly uneasy about the situation.

It has so far offered only a lukewarm statement of support for the Syrian hierarchy and refused to stage pro-Assad events in the refugee camps. Diplomatic sources have said it is also debating in private its continued presence in Damascus.

Leaders of the group have publicly denied suggestions they might leave, but rumors regularly surface, with suggestions that some, if not all, Hamas officials could move to Qatar, Turkey or Sudan. Egypt has refused to allow the group to open an office in Cairo, diplomatic sources said.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home