The Qatari government has provided the Hamas leadership with a list of Hamas officials who have been requested to leave the country’s capital Doha, the Lebanon-based news channel Al Mayadeen reported.
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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.
Speaking with Haaretz, some Palestinian sources in Gaza and the West Bank doubted the reliability of the Al Mayadeen report. But others believed the report and called it an expected move due to pressure by Arab states and possibly by the United States and Israel.
They said this was the case even though Qatar often does not adhere to the line set by Washington or Riyadh, as seen by the talks between Qatari Prince Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Iranian President Hassan Rohani several days after the Riyadh summit.
Either way, it’s clear that Hamas power centers, hitherto divided between the Gaza Strip and Doha, will now shift mainly to Gaza. This follows Ismail Haniyeh’s replacement of Khaled Meshal as Hamas’ political leader and the naming of military leader Yahya Sinwar as Hamas chief in Gaza. Haniyeh, unlike Meshal, has said he will be based in Gaza and not move to Doha, leaving only a few members of the group’s political leadership in Qatar.
Sources say that if Hamas leaders must leave Qatar they will choose Turkey, where Hamas already has offices, or Arab countries such as the United Arab Emirates or Lebanon. More important than the location will be economic aid and the degree the leaders abroad can secure funds and donations. Hamas said this pressure would not detract from its military capabilities, which are supported mainly by Iran.