Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh saluted the Syrian revolution during a rally Friday in Cairo, in the group's first sign of support for rebels fighting their former patrons. The comments indicate Hamas may be moving out of the Shiite Syrian-Iranian orbit, and into alliances with conservative Arabian Gulf countries and new Islamic regimes throughout the Arab world.
"I salute the heroic Syrian people, who are striving for freedom, democracy and reform," Haniyeh told thousands at a rally supporting the Palestinians and Syrians at Cairo's Al-Azhar mosque. "No Iran, no Hezbollah. Syria is Islamic," protesters chanted, referring to Iranian influence in Syria and particularly in suppressing pro-democracy protests.
The comments show a clear break against Syria, which has long supported Palestinian terrorist organizations in order to extend its power in the region. They follow the apparent relocation of Hamas politburo members out of Damascus, and Hamas' recent campaign to court new supporters in the Islamic world. This has included signing a new three-stage energy agreement with Egypt, which will provide Hamas' Gaza territory with fuel and electricity transfers, despite claims by former Egyptian diplomats that Hamas suppressed Egypt's pro-democracy uprising.
Hamas also faces additional indirect pressure from Israel, which has threatened Hamas rivals Fatah with isolation if it joins a coalition government with the terrorist organization. The coalition deal was considered controversial in Hamas, and has divided the organization into factions for and against union with Fatah.