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Hamas said concerned by Egypt-Qatar thaw

According to Arab press, Khaled Mashaal fears Doha may shun him to appease Sissi; Hamas claims no change in ties

Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal, June 23, 2014 (photo credit: YouTube image)
Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal, June 23, 2014 (photo credit: YouTube image)

Hamas fears its ties with Qatar will be hindered by the reported reconciliation efforts between Doha and Egypt, London-based Arab paper Rai al-Youm reported Saturday, according to Israel Radio.

According to the report, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, who has been hosted by Qatar since leaving war-torn Syria in 2012, has reached out to Qatari leaders to receive clarifications on the matter, and has been assured that the amended ties with Cairo would not affect Doha’s relations with Hamas.

Hamas, which rules the Egypt-neighboring Gaza Strip and has its roots in the Muslim Brotherhood, has been treated with contempt by the current Egyptian leadership since it ousted the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi from the presidency in mid-2013.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has kept the Rafah crossing with Gaza shut for much of the time, and has waged war on Hamas’s smuggling tunnel operations under the Egyptian border, recently demolishing many residential buildings near the border to set up a military buffer zone with the Strip.

Since Morsi’s ouster Egypt’s relations with Qatar — a supporter of the Brotherhood — have been dire. Qatar repeatedly denounced Sissi’s actions and it still provides shelter for some Brotherhood leaders who fled Egypt. In Egypt three journalists from Doha-based Al-Jazeera’s English channel were sentenced this summer to at least seven years in prison on charges of aiding the Brotherhood, which the government declared a terrorist organization.

But Saudi Arabia is now leading reconciliation efforts between the nations and Sissi recently met with an envoy from the Gulf emirate.

At a reconciliation summit in November hosted by Riyadh, Qatar joined its Gulf neighbors in supporting Egypt under Sissi.

“Egypt looks forward to a new era that ends past disagreements,” Sissi’s office said after he met with Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdel Rahman Al-Thani, a special envoy of Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

This warming of relations could be worrying to Hamas, as Doha may no longer provide a comfortable home for its leadership.

A Kuwaiti newspaper reported Friday that Qatar may suspend its support for Hamas in light of developments. But a Hamas spokesman, Husam Badran, told Israel Radio on Saturday there was no change in Qatar’s attitude to the group.

AFP contributed to this report.

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