Hamas Leaders Not in Malaysia: Officials

N. Natha
Kuala Lumpur
170607-MY-hamas-620.jpg Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi offers prayers inside the Federal Territory Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, May 20, 2017.

Malaysian government officials on Wednesday rejected reports that senior leaders of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which Israel and the United States have branded a terrorist organization, were in Malaysia after being asked to leave Qatar.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said he had checked with immigration officials regarding the news reports that some top Hamas leaders might now be in the country.

Reports this week in the Israeli media, which cited Palestinian sources, said Qatar’s government had asked several Hamas leaders who were staying in the kingdom to leave and disperse by going to Malaysia, Lebanon or Turkey. On Monday, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic ties with the tiny, oil-rich nation of Qatar over its alleged support of terrorist groups and Iran.

“We reject the rumors that three Hamas leaders from Palestine who have been given refuge in Qatar are now in Malaysia,” Zahid, who is also Malaysia’s home minister, told reporters at a Ramadan fast-breaking event in Kuala Lumpur.

The names of two Hamas leaders identified by Israeli authorities as wanted terrorists, Saleh al-Arouri and Musa Dudin, were on a list that Qatar gave the Palestinian organization in asking the men to leave, said Ynetnews, a website based in Israel.

“The names we have received from intelligence sources have been checked with the Immigration Department. There are no such names entering into Malaysia,” he added without releasing the names of the Hamas leaders.

Malaysian Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar declined to comment on the reports when contacted by BenarNews.

Israeli intelligence officials believe that Arouri helped plot the kidnapping and murders of three Israeli teenagers in June 2014, according to a report by the Times of Israel.

Haaretz, another Israeli news outlet, reported that Arouri was military commander overseeing terror cells in the West Bank and that Dudin, who was released as a part of an exchange of prisoners, had established a cell in Gaza in charge of planning terrorist attacks in the West Bank.

Hamas denies, Qatar keeping mum

Hamas, for its part, rejected the reports that its officials were told to leave Doha, while Qatari officials have been silent on the matter.

“We, in Hamas, deny the claims of some media outlets regarding a list submitted by Qatar including the names of Hamas leaders whom Qatar asked to leave the country,” Hamas spokesman Husam Badran said in a statement issued Monday.

“We assure that this is a part which has always been played by some media outlets who are used to promoting fabricated news about Hamas in order to distort its image and to damage its external relations.”

The long-time foe of Israel is on the U.S. State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

Malaysia’s relationship with Hamas

Over the years, Malaysian officials have expressed sympathy for Hamas and the cause of Palestinian statehood.

The ruling United Malays National Organization party, led by Prime Minister Najib Razak, has hosted Hamas leaders at political events. In 2013, Najib visited Gaza during a highly publicized one-day visit and held a news conference with Hamas leader Ismail Haniya.

“This is a humanitarian visit to express our deep concerns for what happens to the Palestinian people in Gaza and to express our opposition to the aggression on Gaza,” he told reporters at the time.

The visit drew a negative response from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the other main Palestinian political party, Fatah.

“The Palestinian presidency announces its rejection and condemnation of the Malaysian prime minister’s visit to Gaza,” a statement by the Palestinian official news agency WAFA said.

Hamas controls the Gaza Strip while Fatah controls the nearby West Bank.

A year later, Israel accused Malaysia of allowing Hamas militants to carry out military training on Malaysian territory. Malaysian officials have denied the allegation.

On Wednesday, Zahid said Malaysia remained friendly to all nations and denied that Saudi Arabia had placed pressure on the government to severe ties with Qatar.

“The problem they are facing is regional and we hope they will be able to solve it soon,” he said.

Earlier, Najib said Malaysia was tracking events in the region.

“We are close to the Gulf countries and we do not know what the issues are, but, at the moment, we will monitor developments,” Najib told the New Straits Times.

Hata Wahari in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this story.


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