Hamas Leadership Dispersed Among Arab Capitals

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal gestures as he talks about a prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel, at his office in Damascus 11 October 2011. (Photo: REUTERS - Hamas Office - Handout)

By: Houssam Kanafani

Published Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hamas’s exit from Syria is no longer a secret. The issue is now out in the open despite attempts to reaffirm that the address of the politburo has not changed.

Certainly, its offices are still in Damascus but its members have long gone.

They left as the crisis reached its peak, based on a disagreement about the situation with the Syrian leadership and other allies in the “axis of resistance.”

Hamas is both in Syria and not in Syria – the party was forced into this predicament because it tried to formulate a position on the events there.

Damascus is no longer the location of Hamas’ external leadership, which is currently distributed among several Arab capitals, including Cairo, Doha, Beirut, and Amman.

Some members returned to Gaza following the relative organization of the Rafah crossing after the revolution in Egypt.

The address of the politburo is still the same but its members are dispersed.

According to sources inside Hamas, the politburo’s whereabouts are widespread.

Khaled Meshal, head of the politburo, has not settled yet. He has temporarily set up office in Doha, but he is mainly traveling from one capital to another, especially to and from Egypt.

Sources say he will ultimately stay in Cairo since the recent political situation transformed the nature of the relationship between Hamas and the new regime.

Mousa Abu Marzouk, the second-in-command, decided to move to Egypt with his family at the start of the crisis in Syria. Nevertheless, most of his time is spent traveling, namely to Beirut, which he frequented recently.

Mohammad Nazzal, a politburo member, moved to Amman where his family lives. Since the warming of relations between Hamas and Jordan, many officials moved to Amman, where they were based before falling out with Jordanian authorities in 1999.

Izzat al-Rashq is constantly moving between Beirut, Doha, and Cairo.

Mohammad Nasr’s Jordanian passport allowed him a quick relocation to Amman. He is also traveling between Qatar and Egypt.

Sami Khater, considered very close to Meshal, is currently accompanying him in his travels. He is usually either in Doha or Cairo.

The new geographic distribution of the political leadership means the only address remaining in Damascus is that of Abu Ahmad Jamal, the Hamas representative in Syria. Other, non-politburo, members of Hamas have also remained there.

The military cadre in particular is finding it difficult to move as most Arab capitals are strict about not allowing Hamas any military presence on their soil.

Despite the many departures, Hamas sources maintain that the offices of the politburo will not be moved from Damascus, at least not now.

The move, according to some sources in Hamas, was a logistical decision due to the increased difficulty of movement inside Syria and the inability to receive local or foreign guests.

Other sources say that the main obstacle is the lack of alternative country to base the party’s operations out of.

Jordan is adamant about forbidding the organization from working within its borders. Also, according to sources, Hamas believes Qatar will not be a viable destination for the party’s offices either.

Egyptian intelligence informed Hamas that they can only work out of Cairo if they operate within the framework of the PLO. Therefore, a move to Egypt is contingent on the reconciliation process with Fatah.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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