Khaled Meshal AP June 2010
Hamas' exiled political chief Khaled Meshal Photo by AP
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Hamas leaders, including chief of the politburo Khaled Meshal, left the organization's longtime headquarters in Damascus, the New York Times reported on Friday, amid persisting tensions in Syria as the regime of Bashar Assad clashes with opposition forces.

The report came ahead of a Meshal's planned visit to Jordan, his first official trip to the csince his expulsion 13 years ago, and following an official announcement according to which he will step down as the group's leader pending an upcoming vote.

Meshal, has been Hamas' leader since 2004, when Israel killed the group's founder Ahmed Yassin and leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi.

Speaking with the New York Times on Friday, a Hamas official in Gaza said that the group's leaders left the Syrian capital since “the situation there does not allow the leadership to be present."

“There are no more Hamas leaders in Damascus,” the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the New York Times.

Earlier this month, it was reported that Hamas officials had already arranged for the evacuation of their families from Damascus, saying the families of three top officials, Moussa Abu Marzouk, Mohammed Naser and Izzat Risheq, are set to leave at the end of the month, while the three men will remain in Damascus.

A week ago, Hamas confirmed in a statement that that Meshal announced his intention to leave the organization after sixteen years as the political leader. The statement was announced in a meeting of the heads of the organization in Sudan.