The No. 2 in Hamas has confirmed that he and other leaders of the movement have pulled out of Syria because of the regime's brutal crackdown on opponents.
Last Friday, Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh came out against Bashar Assad and hailed the "heroic Syrian struggle for democracy" during a rally at Cairo's Al-Azhar mosque.
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Moussa Abu Marzook also told The Associated Press on Sunday that a unity deal between Hamas and its rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, faces steep obstacles despite recent optimistic assessments by both sides.
He said Hamas wants to keep its ties with Iran, but stood up to Tehran in refusing to side with Assad. "The Iranians are not happy with our position on Syria, and when they are not happy they don't deal with you in the same old way," he said, referring to a drop in Iranian aid to Hamas. He would not say how much money Hamas receives from Iran.
Hamas officials have played down reports that the movement has basically left Syria, its longtime base in exile. However, Abu Marzook confirmed that "practically we are no longer in Syria," even if Hamas still maintains offices there.
Abu Marzook now lives in Cairo. He says the movement's top leader, Khaled Mashaal, and his aides have moved to Doha, Qatar.
In recent months, Hamas has increasingly drifted away from longtime patrons Iran and Syria, in part because of Assad's bloody campaign against regime opponents.
At the same time, Hamas has moved closer to its parent movement, the pan-Arab Muslim Brotherhood, which scored political gains from the uprisings of the Arab Spring and has tried to position itself as open-minded to widen its voter appeal.
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