Hamas Refuses to Take Sides in Syria

By
Hamas official Salah Bardawil.
Hamas official Salah Bardawil. Photo: Getty Images

Palestinian group Hamas may be looking for another home, thanks to mounting tensions in its current home base of Damascus. As anti-government uprisings continue, Hamas admitted that tensions between it and the Syrian government have been strained because it refuses to take sides. “The Syrian government said to us, ‘Whoever is not with us is against us,’” said one unnamed senior Hamas official. “It wants us to express clearly our position over what is going on in Syria. It wants us to be against the Syrian demonstrations. We told them we are neutral. We said to them we are living in the country as visitors and we have no right to comment or interfere in the country’s problems.”

Another Hamas official, Salah Bardawil, said Hamas “cannot support a party against another party in an Arab country,” explaining “The Syrian leadership and other leaderships should understand Hamas’s strategic principle not to intervene in the internal affairs of the states.” But Syria may have a vested interested in keeping Hamas in the country: Its presence is considered a point of negotiation in the peace process. “If Hamas moves out, then Syria loses that card,” explained Syrian historian Amr al-Azm. “The Assad regime might get annoyed with Hamas, but ultimately Hamas gives them a kind of legitimacy because it lets them say that they’re holding up the banner of resistance.”

Tensions Rise as Hamas Refuses to Take Sides in Syria [NYT]