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US Pressure on Syria May Force Hamas to Move HQ to Sudan

Syria may force Mashaal to move to Sudan as the US government focuses on Hamas as the linchpin to break the Middle East diplomatic deadlock.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 5/6/2009, 6:11 PM / Last Update: 5/7/2009, 7:11 AM

Israel News Photo: file

Khaled Mashaal, head of the Damascus-based Hamas Islamic Movement, may be forced by Syrian President Bashar Assad to move to Sudan in the wake of American pressure, Asian Online reported.

Secret sources told the website that Assad sees himself being promoted as a potential power broker in the Middle East and therefore will ask Mashaal “to cease public statements and, over time, leave Syria,” probably for Sudan.

The source added, “This is not going to happen within the coming weeks; it could take a year or more."

Hamas has close ties with Sudan, where Mashaal recently visited and where Israel earlier this year bombed Iranian-supplied weapons en route to Gaza.

As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu prepares himself to explain his government's views on a proposed PA state when he visits U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on May 18, the American government appears to be focusing on Hamas as the linchpin to break the Syrian-Iranian support for terror.

The terrorist organization has become Public Enemy Number One in the Western world as well in several Arab countries. Its de facto government in Gaza has split the Palestinian Authority, making it difficult for the Ramallah-based Fatah government to show that it can control a new PA state.

By weakening Hamas, President Obama will neutralize Israel’s argument that no agreement can be achieved with the PA under present conditions. Egypt also has expressed frustration at the continuing Hamas-Fatah rift.

The Kuwaiti al-Rai newspaper reported as far back as last September that Mashaal may have to leave Damascus, a move that would put Assad in a better bargaining position towards winning his demand for possession of the strategic Golan Heights in return for a peace treaty with Israel.

Hamas ostensibly softened its stand in a New York Times interview with Mashaal published Tuesday, in which he was quoted as saying Hamas has stopped all attacks against Israel. However, he told Arabic language media on Wednesday that he was quoted out of context and, to prove his point, Hamas announced it was responsible for five mortar attacks on Israel in the morning.

Previous attacks usually have been carried out by terrorist cells that are supposedly distinct from Hamas, although Hamas is thought to have a firm control over all mortar shell and rocket firings. One Kassam rocket was also aimed at the coastal city of Ashkelon late Wednesday afternoon; it exploded in an open area near a kibbutz between Gaza and Ashkelon, causing no injuries or damage.