Angry Baath party official in Damascus accuses Hamas of funding anti-Assad groups in Europe as a ‘bet against the regime”. Damascus // Syria’s relationship with Hamas is increasingly strained over the Palestinian group’s refusal to openly endorse Damascus and its tactics in suppressing an anti-regime uprising, according to figures close to both sides. Once firm allies, the Syrian authorities, led by President Bashar Al Assad, and the Islamic resistance movement, headed by Khalid Meshaal from his headquarters in Damascus, are now barely on speaking terms, regime officials and an Islamic cleric close to Hamas said. An official in Syria’s ruling Baath party even furiously accused Hamas of hedging its bets by funding anti-regime organisations, in the expectation Mr Al Assad could be toppled – an indication that the alliance might already be near to breaking point. “In public Hamas says it is not with either side in the [Syrian] crisis but in reality they have turned their back on Syria and have sided with Syria’s opponents,” the Baathist said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject. “We have information that Hamas is channelling money to anti-regime groups in Europe. They have decided to bet against the regime,” the Baathist said. He gave no further details but described the move as a “serious mistake”. A respected Islamic scholar in Damascus with links to Hamas dismissed that claim but said there had effectively been a freeze in formal contacts with top-level Syrian authorities, despite efforts by Hamas leaders to arrange meetings. “There is nothing positive between the regime and Hamas at the moment,” he said. “The regime wants Hamas to change its attitude and openly support them but people inside Hamas believe they have to be with the Syrian people on this issue.” Alongside Iran, Syria and Lebanon’s Hizbollah, Hamas has been a key member of the “axis of resistance” ranged against Israel and its allies, including the United States, which has been at pains to try to break down the four-way alliance. Damascus has provided important political support to Hamas, and hosting the resistance group’s leadership-in-exile has burnished Syria’s credentials as a staunch defender of Arab rights in the struggle to win back territories illegally occupied by Israel. But unlike Iran and Hizbollah, which have very publicly thrown their support behind Mr Al Assad, Hamas has been silent. In March, shortly after the Syrian uprising began, tensions between the two parties broke into the open after regime officials accused Yousef Al Qaradawi, the Qatar-based Islamic cleric and spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood – including Hamas – of inciting sectarian hatred in Syria after he backed demonstrators in a sermon. Shortly afterwards, Syrian media reported that Hamas had rejected Mr Al Qaradawi’s remarks, only for the Hamas leadership in Damascus to publicly say it had done no such thing.
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The Hamas charter states that it is ” is one of the wings of the Muslim Brothers in Palestine” and an early media report indicated that shortly after Hamas took over the Gaza strip, Muslim Brotherhood representatives were present to review Hamas military formations. In 2007, a Hamas journalist acknowledged the role that the “international Muslim Brotherhood” has played in providing funds for the purchase of weapons and in 2008, an Israeli TV station reported that Muslim Brotherhood “representatives” had traveled to Gaza from Egypt through the open border to meet with Hamas. Hamas is supported financially and politically by the global Muslim Brotherhood and a NEFA Foundation report has documented the Hamas fund-raising activities of the Union of Good, a coalition of Islamic charities linked to the Brotherhood that provides financial support to both the Hamas “social” infrastructure, as well as its terrorist activities. Previous posts have also discussed the worldwide campaign orchestrated by the global Brotherhood against Israeli actions in Gaza during the 2008-2009 conflict with Israel.