Palestinian sources have confirmed Monday that a number of top Hamas officials have left Qatar at the country's request, splitting up and moving to a number of countries, including Lebanon, Malaysia and Turkey.
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Saleh al-Arouri, military commander overseeing West Bank terror cells, and Musa Dudin, who was released as part of the a prisoner exchange deal and established in Gaza a cell in charge of planning terror attacks in the West Bank, were among the officials who left Qatar.
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The confirmation comes as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed their ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of supporting terrorism, opening up the worst rift in years among some of the most powerful states in the Arab world.
Over the weekend, the Lebanon-based news channel Al Mayadeen reported that the Qatari government provided the Hamas leadership with a list of Hamas officials who have been requested to leave the country’s capital Doha, but the group denied the claim.
According to Al Mayadeen, which is considered close to Hezbollah and Iran, the list includes officials who maintain ties to Hamas activists in the West Bank.
The station said a senior Qatari official asked Hamas that its contacts with the West Bank be made through its leadership in the Gaza Strip, not from overseas. He said that the Qataris were not enthusiastic supporters of the decision but had been pressured from abroad, and that this was a preliminary list that could be extended later, while additional steps could be taken.
Hamas spokesman Husam Badran denied the report on Sunday morning.
"There are a number of media outlets that release false information about Hamas in order to hurt the organization's image and influence its foreign relations," he said.
According to Al Mayadeen, the names of the people requested to leave Qatar came up in interrogations of Hamas and other activists by Israeli security services.
According to the report, already in March last year Qatar asked the Hamas leadership in Doha to lower its profile by reducing its number of media appearances. It also wanted payments to Hamas leaders in Doha cut.