Is the Hamas terrorist organization about to set up a new international headquarters in Turkey?
Top Hamas terror officials denied a flurry of media reports Monday that the group’s political bureau chief, Khaled Mashaal, was expelled by long-time patron, Qatar.
At the same time, Israel’s foreign ministry issued a statement welcoming those same reports.
Hamas sources told CNN earlier in the day that members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which spawned the terrorist organization, had also been expelled.
All were now on their way to Turkey together with Mashaal, according to the report.
However, Qatar-based senior Hamas official Izzat Risheq denied the report, and the Qatari government declined to comment.
Historically, Qatar has been a long-time supporter of both the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
However, political alliances are everything in the Middle East, and Egypt’s star is on the rise. Cairo’s increasingly popular military-backed President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi deposed his Muslim Brotherhood-backed predecessor. Sisi followed the coup by offering to include the Brotherhood in his new government, but when that peace offering resulted in fresh violence, he outlawed the group.
During the Egyptian-brokered negotiations for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas last summer, numerous players were peripherally involved. Hamas was heavily guided by Qatar, which welcomed the Mashaal and his followers when they fled their Damascus headquarters at the start of the Syrian civil war. Also involved in guiding Hamas wasTurkey, another passionate supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.
But both Saudi Arabia and Jordan opposed any direct participation by those nations in the talks, as did Egypt, the United States and Israel herself.
Qatar has also recently come under pressure from the international community to halt its role as a center of service for terrorist groups and other radical Islamist organizations in the Middle East.
Communications via envoys between Qatar and Saudi Arabia have resulted in a quiet understanding that Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood must seek a new home for its headquarters “abroad.”
On December 27, Mashaal attended a congress of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, where he praised the nation’s Islamist leaders and said he hoped to “liberate Palestine” with Turkey.
Last week, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah fell ill with pneumonia; it remains to be seen whether, and if so, how the monarch’s weakened state may affect Qatar’s decisions and actions in the coming days.
Hana Levi Julian