A Palestinian terrorist believed by Israeli intelligence officials to have planned the kidnap and murder of three Jewish teens in the West Bank in the summer of 2014 has been expelled from Qatar.
Palestinian sources confirmed Monday that the kingdom — now embroiled in a boycott by Saudi Arabia and four other Arab states — asked several top Hamas officials to leave for Lebanon, Turkey and Malaysia.
The sources contradicted Hamas’s denial of the expulsion orders, which were first reported over the weekend by the Lebanese-based Al Mayadeen news channel.
On Sunday, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt decided to cut ties with Qatar and boot it out of an Arab coalition fighting in Yemen, claiming that it supported Iran and Islamist terrorism. Yemen joined the boycott on Monday.
— Ma'an News Agency (@MaanNewsAgency) June 4, 2017
The list of Hamas officials Qatar has asked to leave its territory — reportedly gleaned from interrogations of Palestinian security prisoners in Israel — included Saleh al-Arouri, said to be the group’s military commander in the West Bank and the founder of the West Bank branch of Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
According to Army Radio, Arouri is now in Malaysia following his expulsion from Qatar.
Arouri served several terms in Israeli jails, and was released in March 2010, apparently within the framework of talks to free Gilad Shalit, the IDF corporal kidnapped by Hamas in 2006.
According to the Ynet news site, Arouri went on to be involved in sewing up the deal that provided for the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails in return for the freeing of Shalit.
Israeli intelligence officials believe that Arouri helped plan the June 2014 kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens — Gil-ad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Fraenkel.
That event was followed by a sharp crackdown on Hamas operatives in the West Bank by Israel, to which Hamas responded with heavy rocket fire into Israel. The rocket fire was answered, in turn, by Israel’s launching of a major operation against Gaza, which turned into all-out war between Hamas and the Jewish state during the summer of 2014.
In addition to Arouri, Hamas terrorist Musa Dudin, who was released from an Israeli prison under the Shalit deal, was also expelled from Qatar, according to Army Radio. The report did not say which country he was expelled to.
Qatari officials have reportedly apologized for having to expel Hamas officials, but said it came as a result of “external pressures” on Doha, without giving details.
The immediate trigger for the current crisis between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors was a report on Qatar’s state-run news agency in May that included comments from its ruling emir about Iran and Israel as well as criticism of Saudi Arabia. The Qatari authorities claimed that the comments were fake and were planted by hackers.
As the crisis has escalated in the past day, Qatar’s Gulf Arab neighbors blocked Qatari-based media, including the Doha-based satellite news network Al-Jazeera, and said they will withdraw their diplomatic staff from the kingdom, a gas-rich nation that will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup and is home to a major US military base.
Qatar — a major backer of Hamas and a home for Hamas leaders, as well as a partner with Iran in a massive offshore gas field — has long faced criticism from its Sunni Arab neighbors over what they see as its support for Islamic extremists.
The Gulf’s Sunni Muslim states, lead by Saudi Arabia, see Shiite Iran as their chief enemy and a major threat to regional stability.
They also worry about the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist political group outlawed by both Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Saudi Arabia said it made the decision to cut diplomatic ties due to Qatar’s “embrace of various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilizing the region” including the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group and groups supported by Iran in the kingdom’s restive Eastern Province.
Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia last fell out with Qatar over its backing of then-Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, a Brotherhood member.
In March 2014, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain briefly recalled their ambassadors from Qatar over the rift.
Last Tuesday, a US-based Saudi lobby group warned via Twitter that the Qatari emir’s alleged support for Iran and “insults” against the Saudi regime could see him end up like Egypt’s deposed president, Mohamed Morsi, Middle East Eye reported.
Salman al-Ansari, of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee, tweeted, “To the Emir of Qatar: Regarding your taking the side of the extremist Iranian government, and your insulting of the custodian of the two holy mosques, I want to remind you that Mohamed (sic) Morsi did the same thing and ended up isolated and imprisoned.”