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Hamas: Qatar being threatened due to Israeli, American interests

June 7, 2017 3:22 P.M. (Updated: June 9, 2017 5:19 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- As tensions between Qatar and other Arab countries remained high following an abrupt severing of political ties with the Gulf country on Monday, allegedly over Qatar's support of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, the Hamas movement slammed the development as a "politicized" attempt to force Qatar to abide by the interests of Israel and the United States.

Ahmad Yousif, a former senior Hamas figure who remains close to the movement's leadership, told Ma’an on Tuesday evening that the “threatening language would not work with Qatar.”

He described the political developments as part of an “American-Israeli-Saudi coalition” in the region -- a sentiment expressed by other commentators owing to US President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel in recent weeks and Saudi Arabia’s growing ties with Israel over the years.

Hamas willing to leave Doha to avoid more difficulties for Qatar

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and the Maldives all cut ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing the Qatari government of supporting “terrorism” and contributing to destabilization of the region, accusations that the Qatari government has strongly denied.

Meanwhile, Jordan announced on Wednesday that it was scaling back ties with Qatar.

The Gulf states have also given Qatari citizens 14 days to leave their countries, and banned their own citizens from traveling to Qatar, while Qatari airlines are now prohibited from flying in these countries’ airspace.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir stated that Qatar would have to cut support to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood if the country wanted to restore diplomatic relations. Such demands led to earlier reports that Qatar was expelling members of Hamas from the country.

However, Hamas denied these claims. Yousif told Ma’an that several leaders of Hamas had left Qatar “willingly” in order to avoid adding to Qatar’s difficulties, and that Hamas was “willing to leave Qatar” if the Doha-based government needed this.

He added that Hamas would be open to moving its politburo to another location outside of Qatar -- suggesting Malaysia, Lebanon, or the Gaza Strip as options -- if the Doha government requested it to leave in order to lessen the pressure on Qatar.

“Doha is one of the biggest supporters of the Palestinian people and Hamas has much respect for Qatar,” he added.

Reshuffling of political alliances in the region

Yousif stated that these actions against Qatar were “useless,” adding that Qatar was a “financially capable country” that has “strong relations with other countries and would not be affected by the severing of diplomatic ties influenced by Israeli and American demands.”

However, others have called the conflict the “worst diplomatic crisis to hit Gulf Arab states in decades,” and has the potential to cause food prices in Qatar to skyrocket and increase the price of fuel around the world.

“Saudi Arabia itself has opened its doors to Hamas in the past and welcomed the head of Hamas’ politburo last year,” Yousif pointed out, referring to a Hamas delegation led by then head of the politburo Khalid Meshaal in 2016, which had visited Saudi Arabia following a Saudi-sponsored visit to Egypt aimed at resolving tensions between Hamas and Egypt. “Now it accuses us of terrorism and compares us with ISIS.”

Yousif said that Saudi Arabia has changed alliances to please Israel and the US, adding that it was "absurd" for a Muslim-majority country such as Saudi Arabia "to accuse a national liberation movement of terrorism.”

The Hamas movement has improved its relations with Iran over the years, Yousif said, despite Iran’s involvement in Syria and Iraq, and that their relations will be further strengthened as a result of the reshuffling of alliances in the region.

Meanwhile, Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya al-Sinwar and a delegation of other Hamas officials visited Egypt in recent days, reportedly to discuss Hamas’ relations with Egypt, the effects of the decade-long Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip, and possibilities of opening the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the besieged Palestinian territory.

According to Yousif, the Hamas delegation visited Egypt after being invited by Egyptian authorities to manage the security situation at the borders with Gaza, making Egypt’s recent diplomatic rift with Qatar over its support for Hamas "all the more baffling."

Saudi Arabia 'inciting' against Hamas and abandoning the Palestinian cause

In a statement released by Hamas on Wednesday, the movement expressed its disappointment with the situation, and condemned Saudi Arabian foreign minister al-Jubeir for “aiming to incite against Hamas,” after al-Jubeir accused Qatar of undermining the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority through its longstanding support of Hamas, which al-Jubeir called an "extremist group."

Hamas admitted its confusion over the order to Qatar to cease support for the group in light of Saudi Arabia's “known support for the Palestinian people and their right of resistance.”

The recent statements made by Saudi Arabia about Hamas “shocked the Palestinian people and Islamic Arab nations for going against the interests of the Palestinian cause,” the statement read, adding that the designation of Hamas as a “legitimate resistance movement against the occupation” was an intricate part of supporting the Palestinian struggle.

The statement also expressed Hamas’ concerns that the Israeli government would “take advantage of such statements in order to commit more crimes against the Palestinian people, Jerusalem, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

“Al-Jubeir’s statements have violated all Islamic and Arab standings that affirmed the Palestinian right to resist until the liberation of Palestine’s land and holy sites,” the statement read.

Hamas called upon Saudi Arabia to cease making such statements and demands that “negatively affect the kingdom” and its stance on the Palestinian people and and their legal right to resist.
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