Hamas divided over its presence in Syria 29Jan12 January 29, 2012


If the advisory council does not nominate Meshal again, the favorite to win could be Moussa Abu Marzook (C),
should the council opt for a leader outside of the occupied Palestinian territories. (Photo: REUTERS – Asmaa Waguih)


by Qasem Qasem  -  Alakhbar English  -  27 January 2012

Hamas has evacuated most of its administrative personnel from Syria. The justification that Hamas officials gave for the evacuation was that there is no need for these administrators to remain in Syria during a period of political upheaval and that the uprising would have hindered their ability to carry out their work and limited their movement had they stayed.

Hamas has kept a staff of about 100 people in the political bureau, a fraction of the nearly 2000 that were there before.

Despite these measures, Hamas strongly denies that it will transfer its politburo from Syria to Egypt or Jordan, or that it has any desire to leave Syria.

However, everything they are doing suggests otherwise. It appears as if Hamas is preparing for the right moment for its administration to leave Syria.

The strongest indicator of this was the decision to move the families of the members of its politburo out of Damascus over the past months.

Head of the politburo, Khaled Meshal, has moved his family to Amman in Jordan. Meanwhile, his deputy Mousa Abu Marzook moved his family to Egypt.

One movement official who did not wish to be identified stated that “Hamas does not want to leave Syria, but in the event that we are forced to leave Damascus, it must be at the lowest possible cost to us.”

As far as what this means, Hamas is quite simply “waiting for Syria to expel us,” according to the official.

The debate surrounding moving the political bureau arose with infighting among different wings of Hamas. Meshal’s moderate wing, which wants to move the political bureau, has been weakened by the “security solution” currently being pursued by the Syrian regime.

Meshal announced Hamas’s opposition to the Syrian regime’s security measures during a visit to Tehran in October of last year.

On the other hand, Meshal’s more hard-line deputy Abu Marzook’s stocks have risen. He supports moving the bureau out of Syria, and has also proposed that Hamas distance itself from Iran.

For the first time since its foundation, the conflict between Hamas’ different wings has become public. This is due to recent leaks from inside the organization that Meshal does not intend to run for his post again.

According to movement members, this news was leaked by “those close to Abu Marzook.” They add that the motivation for the leak was to prevent Meshal from later “going back on his word.”

Yet, Meshal’s announcement that he does not intend to run does not necessarily mean that he will not be a candidate.

According to one Hamas official, the organization’s advisory council “could decide to nominate him again, at which point Abu Walid [Meshal] will be forced to yield to the opinion of the council.”

If the advisory council does not nominate Meshal again, the favorite to win could be Abu Marzook, should the council opt for a leader outside of the occupied Palestinian territories. Alternatively, Ismail Haniyeh could be nominated, should the council prefer a candidate from within Palestine.

However, despite current tensions between Hamas and the regime in Syria, the movement has made some headway in Jordan.

Hamas supporters are awaiting the results of the meeting that will be held between King Abdullah II and Meshal next Sunday in Amman.

The meeting, which is being billed as a “reconciliation” meeting, will likely see the reopening of Hamas’s offices in the Jordanian capital, bringing the organization closer to its constituency in the West Bank.

The meeting, arranged nearly a year ago with the help of the Qataris, has been delayed several times by the Jordanian king due to media leaks.

Some Hamas members deny the possibility of the political bureau being transferred to Egypt, as the country is still experiencing turmoil of its own.

One Hamas member said, “Egyptian intelligence announced that it is unable to host Hamas’s political bureau in Cairo. But they will allow the movement to conduct meetings with international officials on Egyptian soil.”

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