February 24, 2012


In Break, Hamas Supports Syrian Opposition (FARES AKRAM, 2/24/12, NY Times)

Marking the first public break with its longtime patron, a leader of Hamas spoke out against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on Friday, throwing its support behind the opposition and stripping Damascus of what little credibility it may have retained with the Arab street.

Hamas's prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, said during Friday prayers, "I salute all people of the Arab spring, or Islamic winter, and I salute the Syrian people who seek freedom, democracy and reform."

The worshippers shouted back, "Allahu Akbar," or "God is great," and "Syria! Syria!"

Mr. Haniya made his remarks in support of the uprising that is seeking to oust Mr. Assad, a reversal after years in which Mr. Assad has given safe haven to leaders of Hamas while helping supply it with weapons and cash in its battle against Israel. But the remarks were almost as significant for where they were made: in Cairo, at Al Azhar Mosque. During the years in which Syria supported Hamas, Egypt's leaders were hostile to the group, treating it as a despised relative of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was also tagged an outlaw and banned. So Mr. Haniya's remarks in Egypt served as another measure of how much has changed since popular uprisings began to sweep the region, removing President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and now attempting to topple Mr. Assad.

Posted by at February 24, 2012 4:52 PM

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