Hamas denies reports it is opening office in Tunis

January 8, 2012

Hamas has denied reports that it planned to establish its offices or open an office in Tunis.

“The movement has no intention to set up an office in Tunis,” Salah Al Bardwell, a Hamas leader, said. “There has never been talk within the movement about this issue,” he said.

The Islamist movement has its offices in Damascus, but several reports have been talking about plans to relocate them out of Syria as the country faces a deep political crisis and Hamas refusing to take sides publicly.

Reports about the Hamas Tunis office surfaced following the extraordinarily warm popular and official welcome given to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh as he arrived to the North African country on Thursday.

Abdullah Zouari, from Tunisia’s Al Nahda, the Islamist party of the country’s prime minister and parliament majority, reportedly said that there was no doubt about Hamas opening an office in Tunis and that in fact the move should have been taken years ago.
“We welcome the opening of a Hamas office in Tunisia and there will no objection by anyone to such a move,” he said, quoted by the London-based pan-Arab daily Al Sharq Al Awsat on Saturday.

However, Al Haniyeh’s visit to Tunisia is reportedly splitting the country after members of the local opposition said that the special welcome to the Hamas leader had waded into controvery.

“We would like to know who extended the invitation to Al Haniyeh to visit Tunisia,” Iyad Dehmani, from the Progressive Democratic Party, a member of the tripartite coalition ruling the country and a deputy, said. “If Al Haniyeh was invited by the state, then we would like to know why Rashed Ghannouchi, the head of Al Nahda party, was there, but none of the other party leaders. And if he was invited by Al Nahda, why was Hamadi Jebali, the prime minister, at the airport, as he now represents the nation, and not just his party, Al Nahda? We would like to know what is going on,” he said.

Tunis was the headquarters of the Palestinians between 1982 and 1991 after the Palestinian movement relocated from Beirut following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
In April, London’s Al Hayat daily reported that Hamas had decided to leave Syria and that Qatar had approved to host only the political wing of the movement after Egypt and Jordan refused to host it. Hamas however rejected the report as “baseless allegations”.

In December, The Wall Street Journal reported that Hamas would abandon its Damascus headquarters after pressure from Turkey and Qatar and that it would move its base to Cairo and Doha, even though Iran was attempting to dissuade the Palestinians from relocating.

However, a Hamas official denied the report, saying that there were “no immediate plans for Hamas to relocate its headquarters from Syria to another Arab state”.
According to Beirut-based Al Akhbar, the official conceded that the Palestinian group’s operations had been disrupted by the ongoing Syrian crisis, but said that “no decisive step” had been taken to leave Syria.

In May, the New York Times reported that Hamas officials acknowledged that relations with Syrian officials had been tense.

“The Syrian government said it wants us to express clearly our position over what is going on in Syria,” a senior Hamas official said.

“It wants us to be against the Syrian demonstrations. We told them we are neutral. We said to them we are living in the country as visitors and we have no right to comment or interfere in the country’s problems,” he said.




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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