The Hamas terror group on Sunday denied that Qatar is expelling several of its senior members from the Gulf Kingdom.
The denial came a day after the Lebanese al-Mayadeen television station said Hamas was recently informed of the decision by a representative of the Gulf kingdom, who gave the terror organization a list of members who must leave Qatar’s capital of Doha, citing “external pressures.”
A Hamas spokesman said the reports are false and are aimed at slandering the organization and disrupting its foreign relations, Channel 2 News reported.
The spokesman said the terror group was reorganizing its activities, following the recent appointment of a new leadership.
Ismail Haniyeh was elected leader by Hamas’s Shura Council in May. His rise was the latest sign of a power shift in Hamas from its foreign-based leaders to the Gaza Strip. His predecessor Khaled Mashaal is based in Qatar.
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 Mashaal. It was not clear Saturday if Mashaal was among those ordered to leave Qatar.
According to the al-Mayadeen report, those singled out are Hamas members tasked with coordinating the terror group’s operatives in the West Bank. The list of names was reportedly drawn up from Israeli interrogations of Palestinian security prisoners.
The Qataris 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.
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.
In Trump’s speech in Riyadh, the US president labeled Hamas a terror group and linked it with other terror organizations such as Hezbollah and 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 ties with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.