Qatar is expelling several senior Hamas members from the Gulf kingdom, in response to outside pressure, a report said Saturday, in a major blow to the Gaza-based terror group.
Qatar has been a major backer of Hamas, pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the Gaza Strip and sheltering the group’s top leadership in recent years.
Hamas was recently informed of the decision by a representative of the Gulf kingdom, who gave Hamas a list of members who must leave Qatar’s capital of Doha, Hebrew media quoted a report from the Hezbollah affiliated al-Mayadeen television station as saying.
According to the report, those singled out are Hamas members tasked with coordinating with the terror group’s operatives in the West Bank, and the list of names reportedly came from interrogations of Palestinian security prisoners by Israel.
The Qatari’s reportedly apologized for the move, but said it came as a result of “external pressures” on Doha.
It gave no details on where the outside pressure came from, but it comes just two weeks after US President Donald Trump met with Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia, calling on them to form a coalition against Islamist terrorism.
Israel’s Channel 10 TV on Saturday night quoted Palestinian officials saying the pressure on Qatar to expel Hamas operatives came from Saudi Arabia and the United States. The sources added that the list of names was “only the beginning” and that further expulsions would follow.
In Trump’s speech he labelled Hamas as a terror group and bunched it with other terror organizations such as Hezbollah and the Islamic State. While in Riyadh, Trump also met with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Qatar has also been under fire in recent days from its Gulf neighbors for its closer ties with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Since Hamas wrested control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in a bloody coup in 2007, Qatar has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the territory and backed Hamas diplomatically, sheltering its exiled former leader Khaled Mashaal. It was not clear Saturday if Mashaal was among those ordered to leave Qatar.
In 2012, its then-emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, became the first head of state to visit Gaza under Hamas rule, pledging to raise $400 million toward reconstruction.
Mashaal decamped to Doha from the group’s former headquarters in Damascus in 2012 over reported disagreements with the Syrian regime over its brutal crackdown on protesters and rebels in the Syrian civil war, who like Hamas are primarily Sunni Muslims.
In addition to Qatar, a number of Hamas operatives are also reported to live in Turkey, namely Saleh al-Arouri, a senior Hamas member who Israel says is in charge of training terror cells in the West Bank.