Lebanese authorities are trying to deny Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh permission to visit Lebanon in light of the ongoing protests and instability in the country, the Saudi-owned Elaph newspaper reported over the weekend, citing an unnamed senior source in the terror group.
Since the beginning of December, Haniyeh, who is based in the Gaza Strip, has been touring Arab- and Islamic-majority countries including Egypt, Qatar and Turkey.
The trips to Qatar and Turkey were the first he has made beyond Gaza and Egypt since he became head of the terror group in 2017.
“[Lebanese authorities] are trying… to refuse Haniyeh permission to hold the visit because of the situation Lebanon is experiencing — the demonstrations and the unstable security and political conditions,” the senior Hamas source told Elaph.
Lebanon is facing its worst economic crisis in decades, while protests against corruption and mismanagement have gripped the country since October. The local currency has taken a nosedive, losing more than 40 percent of its value after over 20 years of being pegged to the dollar.
Meanwhile, layoffs and salary cuts are becoming the norm as politicians bicker over forming a new government.
Haniyeh would like to meet Hezbollah terror group leader Hassan Nasrallah, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, and other Lebanese leaders, the Hamas source added.
Both Hamas and Hezbollah receive support from Iran.
Lebanon’s security establishment is fearful that a visit by Haniyeh could give rise to “various tensions” with regard to “the internal Lebanese situation” and “ongoing disputes in Palestinian refugee camps between Fatah and Hamas,” the report said, quoting a “well-placed source.”
Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are often the scene of intense violent clashes. They are characterized by “overcrowding, poor housing conditions, unemployment, poverty and lack of access to justice,” according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, a UN body that provides aid to Palestinian refugees.
A source close to the Lebanese Directorate of General Security said authorities intend to ask Haniyeh to back off the idea of visiting Lebanon during these “particularly sensitive circumstances,” noting that Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by a number of Western countries that Beirut maintains “close and important” ties to.
Lebanon allows a number of Hamas officials to reside in its territory. In the past year, Saleh al-Arouri, Hamas’s deputy chief who has a $5 million US government bounty on his head, has frequently appeared in the country.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.