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Thursday, December 29, 2011

The rift in Hamas between Meshal and Haniyeh widens (updated)

Right now, Gaza Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is going on what was intended to be a mini-Muslim-world tour, the first time he has left Gaza since Israel's closure.

He is supposed to visit Egypt, Sudan, Turkey, Qatar, Tunisia and Bahrain. 

According to the virulently anti-Hamas but usually reliable Palestine Press Agency website, Haniyeh is running into problems.

Apparently, the Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshal is not happy that, after he has been talking about unity with Fatah, Haniyeh is acting like the Palestinian prime minister. 

Apparently because of pressure from Meshal, Haniyeh is meeting much lower level officials than he had hoped to. Both Qatar and Turkey asked him to postpone the trip and are not planning to receive him in any official capacity. Similarly, he has not met with political leaders in Khartoum or in Cairo. And Tunisia has informed him that he can meet with Islamic party officials but not with government officials. 

As far as I know, I am the only person who has been talking about a rift within Hamas between the Gaza leadership and Damascus-based Khaled Meshal.  This story makes it sound like Meshal is winning - politically.

But Haniyeh and Zahar are the leaders in Gaza, and based on the increase in anti-Fatah actions being done lately in there, they seem to be roundly ignoring - or actively undermining - Haniyeh in Gaza itself.

Gazan supporters of Hamas don't get to see Meshal except on TV. Haniyeh and the other local leaders, meanwhile, organize rallies with hundreds of thousands of supporters. 

There's one other thing to notice that indicates a serious split within Hamas. Isn't it odd that while Haniyeh is traveling all over, he is not meeting with Meshal himself? Nor has Meshal shown any interest in going to Gaza, something Egypt would certainly allow.

One other detail from the article: its source mentioned that Haniyeh flew from Cairo to Khartoum on a private jet that cost $48,000 to rent, which raised eyebrows for a group supposedly against corruption and that supports austerity. That source seems to be from the Meshal camp, which makes it sound like there's an active whispering campaign against Haniyeh being organized by his opponents in Damascus.

UPDATE: This seems to be a case where Palestine Press Agency got it wrong. And to an extent, so did I.

Haniyeh just met Sudan's president - along with Meshal.

(h/t CHA)