Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar announced Friday the terror movement is may relocate its headquarters from Damascus to Cairo. It is the first time a senior Hamas official openly admitted they were looking at a move.
"All the Palestinians in Syria are in distress, not just Hamas. There are many options in terms of the organization's headquarters and Egypt is one of them," he said.
Al-Zahar also addressed the possibility that other senior Hamas officials will return to Gaza and noted this depended on each of them personally.
"Gaza is open to all," he stressed. "There are leaders who may return to Gaza and some may not. "
He chose not to respond to recent reports in the London-based al-Hayat newspaper suggesting that progress has been made in the Shalit deal negotiations.
Hamas' political wing, and several military commanders Israel considers high value targets, have been operating out of Damascus for more than a decade after being forced to leave Jordan in 1999. Damascus is also home to Islamic Jihad chief Ramadan Shallah, head of the PFLP – General Command Ahmed Jibril and representatives of other Palestinian terror groups.
The presence of Hamas in Damascus, and its activities there, has created major difficulties in negotiations between Israel and Syria over the years. Jerusalem has often demanded they be banished from Syria, but has always been met with refusal.
Last April, al-Hayat reported that Hamas' political leadership was planning to relocate to Qatar, which reportedly agreed to host politburo chief Khaled Mashaal, but not the group's military echelon.
A move to Cairo, about which rumorss first began circling in following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, would be a return to the womb for Hamas who emerged from the ranks of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. It would also – for Cairo's caretaker junta - serve as a sop to rapid anti-Israeli sentiments surging down the Nile.