After a senior Hamas source confirmed late Saturday reports on Al-Jazeera that its political leader Khaled Mashal had been invited to Cairo, Egyptian officials were quick to contradict on Sunday, saying the reports were untrue. Hamas spokesman Hussan Badran later admitted that Mashal had not received a formal invitation from the Egyptian government.
But during the conversation with Al-Jazeera, the senior Hamas official asserted that Mashal had been invited to Cairo, but declined to go to discuss the Egyptian ceasefire initiative, which the group had days ago refused.
The Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen network even claimed that it was Arab League chief Nabil el-Araby who had invited Mashal, but that the Hamas leader had said conditions were not yet ripe for such a visit.
Hamas' senior official in Cairo, Mousa Abu Marzook, who acts as intermediary between the external leadership of the organization and the al-Sisi government, tried Sunday morning to defuse the situation, saying that if Mashal were actually invited to Cairo, he would arrive the next day.
But Egypt did not like the reports emanating from Hamas sources. Egyptian insiders told Asharq al-Awsat that Hamas was lying, and that no invitation had been extended to Khaled Mashal to come to Cairo. The same Egyptian sources accused Hamas of fueling the reports as part of a series of falsehoods by the leaders of the organization. Nor did these stop there, and attacked in the Hamas leadership in an unprecedented manner.
"While the Hamas leadership is abroad, in Qatar and other places enjoying a comfortable life, holed up in luxury hotels and driving luxury cars, dozens of innocent Palestinians are killed every day," the sources said. "They are bleeding and paying the price for the political and military adventures of the movement's leadership."
Hamas' spokesman in Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum, meanwhile, simultaneously hit back at Egypt. Speaking to Sky News in Arabic, Barhoum said that, "Egypt is not fulfilling its role. Things were better in the eras of (Hosni) Mubarak and (Mohamed) Morsi than what is happening now."
Even so, it seems that Hamas finally comprehended that they had pushed too far, and Badran, the organization's foreign spokesman, admitted Sunday afternoon that Mashal had not been officially invited by Cairo, but had rather received the invitation through third party mediators.
Meanwhile, Hamas is relying on Qatar to act in its favor. A senior Qatari official told Reuters that Doha "will not put any pressure on Hamas to bring down or reduce or change their demands." The source noted that Mahmoud Abbas, who is currently in Qatar, will meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon before the former's meeting with Mashal.
At the same time, Abdulah Bin Bijad Al-Otaibi, a Saudi columnist, wrote Sunday in a-Sharq al-Awsat that, "the killing of children and the elderly is a great crime against humanity, no matter on which side. Bashar Assad is matched in this by Israel. Hezbollah is matched in this by ISIS and Hamas is matched by Jabhat al-Nusra.
"Yet it is odd that throughout those stupid provocations by Hamas and Hezbollah against Israel, we have seen no pictures either of them fighting or of their outposts," he wrote.
"The only images coming out of the scene of the battle are those civilians, children and the elderly. Where are these brave warriors? Why do we not see them or their destroyed positions in any pictures of the dead?"