Beirut: Three days after leading Arab Gulf States warned Lebanon about any Hezbollah initiatives to back Qatar in the ongoing crisis between Doha and fellow GCC neighbours, the pan-Arab daily Al Sharq Al Awsat reported that an American diplomatic source advised Lebanese officials not to welcome Hamas leaders.
According to the newspaper, which prominently displayed the story just below its masthead on page one, American embassy representatives in Beirut pressured high-ranking Lebanese officials — without identifying them — that no Hamas leaders, expelled by Doha, ought to be granted residence in Beirut.
Qatar banished five Hamas leaders, including three members of the 18-member political bureau, although it was not clear whether Khalid Mashaal was among them.
Mashaal lived in Doha for several years before moving to the Syrian capital of Damascus in 2001, though he returned to Qatar in 2012 after the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War.
Hamas leaders involved in the movement’s military action in the Occupied Palestinian Territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including a renowned military leader, Salih Al Aruri, were unceremoniously ejected from Qatar, according to a June 5 report. Ironically, Turkey had ousted Al Aruri several months ago, as it reconciled with Israel to re-establish relations between the two countries.
Israelis believed that Al Aruri was involved in the kidnapping of several youths in 2014.
Al Sharq Al Awsat further revealed that when the Qatari officials informed the Hamas leadership that the five leaders had to leave, the movement’s leadership were weighing their options on where to send them including Malaysia, Lebanon and Iran.
Following the news, American diplomats contacted officials in Lebanon almost immediately, to prevent the five leaders from being granted residence and protection in the country.
The newspaper did not report whether any responses were received from Malaysia or Iran, however, The Atlantic posted a speculative story on Wednesday entitled “Qatar crisis is pushing Hamas back to Iran”.