Syrian forces have stormed the offices of two top Hamas officials in Damascus, and have also raided the apartment of Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal, who has already fled the country. Troops confiscated Mashaal’s cars and seized equipment from the offices.
The raids reflect the breakdown in relations between Hamas and their former patrons in the Assad regime. Hamas leaders left Damascus nearly a year ago, citing the civil war, but left security to guard the offices and retain considerable support in Syria’s refugee camps.
Syrian state media, for its part, has lashed Hamas, terming Mashaal “ungrateful and traitorous” in a recent media report. Though the leadership is out of Syria’s reach, mostly in Qatar and the Gaza Strip, there is concern that a crackdown against Hamas backers in the camps could begin, and that the regime may even consider mass expulsion of refugees.
Syrian officials have been warning Palestinians against joining the rebellion, but as the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) continues to pour weapons into the camps, there is increasing factional fighting among the camp’s pro-Assad leadership and more rebel sympathetic groups.
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