The Palestinian terror movement Hamas, which has been trying to relocate senior officials who were asked to leave Qatar, has asked Algerian authorities for permission to open an office there, the Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported Monday.
Palestinian sources said that Hamas made a formal request several months ago to open an office in the African country’s capital, Algiers, but has yet to receive a response.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri is currently in Algeria and confirmed that his movement has asked to establish a bureau in the country. Zuhri plans to set up a presence in Algiers and then later bring other Hamas officials to join him, according to the sources.
The request was apparently made before the recent crisis between moderate Sunni states in the Persian Gulf and Qatar broke out in June. Saudi Arabia and its allies have cut off ties with Qatar, one of the few foreign backers of Hamas, after accusing the gas-rich state of supporting extremism across the region.
Days before the conflict erupted, Qatar had asked several top Hamas officials to leave for Lebanon, Turkey and Malaysia. Qatari officials reportedly told Hamas at the time that it was under pressure to expel its members.
“On a personal level I applied for a stay in Algeria. The Algerian authorities promised to study the request and consider it,” Asharq Al-Awsat quoted Zuhri as saying recently.
Palestinian sources said Hamas’s leadership is now scattered across the Gaza Strip, Lebanon and Malaysia, with a few officials still in Qatar.
The group was said to be adopting a strategy of spreading its senior members around to prevent pressuring any single country with its presence. The movement doesn’t want its political base in any other location, preferring instead to keep it in Gaza, which it controls.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who was appointed in May, resides in Gaza, making the Palestinian enclave the focal point of the organization.
The Islamist terror group seized Gaza in a violent clash with forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007. The two factions have been at loggerheads ever since.