Middle East

Hamas 'regrets' Syria criticism of leader Meshaal

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal makes a speech during the congress of Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara September 30, 2012. REUTERS/Kayhan Ozer/Prime Minister's Press Office/Handout

GAZA CITY: The Hamas movement in Gaza expressed "deep regret" on Wednesday over a commentary aired by Syrian state television that criticised the group's leader Khaled Meshaal.

The remarks, broadcast on Syrian state television on Tuesday night, came after Meshaal attended a conference on Sunday of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development party, which has been a staunch of the Syrian opposition.

"We in the Hamas movement express our deep regret over the attacks and insults carried by Syrian state television against brother Khaled Meshaal, leader of the movement, and against the movement itself," the group said in a statement.

"The Hamas movement is bound to its people and its resistance and its rights, and distances itself from entering into any media polemic," it said.

"It will remain with the Arab and Islamic nation, and with the aspirations of its peoples for freedom, dignity and democracy."

The unprecedented Syrian television diatribe against Meshaal, delivered by a news presenter, accused him of having "sold out the Palestinian resistance" and "forgotten Jerusalem" in exchange for "promises of normalisation with the Zionist enemy and the US administration."

"Syria is content to have been abandoned by those who sold the resistance out for power," the presenter said, recalling that Damascus had offered Meshaal refuge when other regional powers were not willing to provide him with a base.

Hamas has found itself in an increasingly sensitive position as Syrian rebels battle troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian members of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, from which Hamas sprung, were among the first to participate when protests erupted against Assad's rule in March last year.

As peaceful demonstrations turned into all-out war between armed rebels and the regime, Hamas quietly moved its offices from Syria, evacuating most of its members, while publicly denying it had shifted its headquarters.

It tried to walk a careful line, expressing support for the Syrian people, while declining to publicly criticise the Assad regime, once one of its strongest allies.

But in Turkey on Sunday, Meshaal appeared to offer public support for the uprising.

"We salute the revolution of the Syrian people for freedom and democracy," he said during the meeting of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development party.

"We are with the aspiration of the people for freedom, justice, democracy, dignity and real independence," Meshaal added.





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