BEIRUT - The powerful Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah called on Hamas members and officials who are still present in Lebanon to leave the country 'immediately and within hours.' The decision comes as a response to the Palestinian Islamist movement’s role in the ongoing war in Syria against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Media sources close to the Palestinian national liberation movement Fatah in Lebanon said a Hezbollah senior security official informed Hamas representative in Lebanon, Ali Baraka, that all of those related to Hamas on the Lebanese territory became have become unwelcome.
The military unit of Hamas has broken ties with former ally Syrian President Bashar Assad and has begun training members of the opposition’s Free Syrian Army in Damascus, according to a report by The Times of London.
Anonymous diplomatic sources told the Times, earlier this month, that members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades were training Free Syrian Army units in the rebel-held neighborhoods of Yalda, Jaramana and Babbila in the Syrian capital.
“The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades have been training units very close to Damascus. These are specialists. They are really good,” a Western diplomat with contacts in both the Assad regime and the Syrian opposition told the London daily newspaper.
According to the Times, Hamas has been helping the rebels in digging a tunnel beneath Damascus in preparation for an attack on the city, a skill that Hamas has honed by constructing tunnels to smuggle supplies from Egypt into the Gaza Strip.
A Palestinian source from Lebanon’s Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp reportedly said that Hamas’s aid to the rebels is common knowledge, however Hamas officials have denied any affiliation with Syrian rebels.
The political bureau of Hamas was situated in Damascus. The organization’s leaders enjoyed the protective patronage of the Syrian regime and aid from Hezbollah.
By late December 2011, when the Syrian uprising started shifting into high gear, Khaled Mashaal, Hamas’s top political leader, quietly left Damascus in February last year and relocated to Qatar.
That same month, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh allegedly declared the movement’s support for the Syrian opposition.
Syrian state-run media accused Mashaal of being “ungrateful and treacherous.”
As far as Khaled Meshaal is concerned, the underlying logic is simple: His movement’s new patron and funder, the Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, is a vocal opponent of Assad’s regime.