A war of words between the Palestinian Islamic extremist group Hamas and the regimes in Syria and Iran heated up Wednesday, as the former allies continued to drift apart amid the unrest in Middle East.
A senior Hamas leader in Gaza, Ahmed Yousef, said Syria’s recent verbal attacks against Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal had “burnt all bridges” with the Palestinian organization, Israel Radio reported.
At the same time, an Iranian newspaper with ties to the Tehran government charged that Mashaal was a “Zionist agent” who would sacrifice his people for personal gain.
Until recently, Syria and Iran were Hamas’s main backers and the source of much of the organization’s money and weaponry.
Earlier this week, Syrian state TV blasted Mashaal as “traitorous” for abandoning his longtime base of operations in Damascus and moving to Qatar. Hamas has also expressed vocal support for Syrian rebels.
The terror group, which rules Gaza, was a longtime ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and operated under Assad’s protection from the Syrian capital. But Hamas pulled out of Syria after the revolt against Assad erupted and withdrew its support as local and international pressure against the regime mounted.
The Middle East is increasingly aligning politically along Sunni-Shiite fault lines, with Sunni Muslims — including Egypt, Tunisia, the Gulf States, Hamas, and others — facing off against a Shiite-dominated coalition headed by Iran and including the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah and the Alawite regime in Damascus. That shift has forced Hamas, a Sunni group, away from its longtime allies in Syria and Iran.