The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) politburo's days in Damascus may be numbered, according to "informed Palestinian sources" cited by Al-Sharq al-Awsat. Word of the move comes despite the Syrian regime's long-time support for the group, and, despite getting more press this time around, is not the first time that such talk has circulated publicly. As in the earlier reports, sources say PIJ is considering moving as a result of Syria's ongoing civil war and the impact that the rapidly deteriorating security situation has had on its ability to operate there.
Various Middle Eastern cities have been floated as potential alternatives to Damascus, including Cairo and Beirut.
If PIJ moves, it would join a rapidly growing list of Syrian defectors, including rival Palestinian terror movement, Hamas. In March, Hamas publicly announced that senior leaders of its political office were leaving Damascus in protest of the Assad regime's brutal crimes. Like PIJ, Hamas had been a long-time beneficiary of Syrian government hospitality and tutelage.
After leaving Damascus, Hamas' external leadership was scattered among several Arab capitals, including Cairo, Doha, Beirut, and Amman—where, for the most part, it remains today.
But those relocations should change, says Rashid Ghannouchi, leader of Tunisia's ruling Islamist party, Al-Nahda. In an interview with the Lebanese Arabic-language news site, ElNashra, on Monday, Ghannouchi declared his support for Islamic control of "Holy Jerusalem and to the efforts to liberate it."
To that end, he "does not oppose Hamas opening an office in Tunisia."
Hamas, like the PIJ, grew out of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood as an Islamicly-oriented Palestinian nationalist organization aimed at destroying Israel. Both groups are designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the U.S. State Department and tend to draw on the same Palestinian base for support. In January, Agence France-Presse reported that there were talks about attempting to merge the two groups, long at odds with each other over political participation and diplomatic dialogue with Israel. It doesn't appear that the talks gained any traction.
In recent months, acting on a sense of openness and freedom that was non-existent under former Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak, PIJ and Hamas have moved closer to their roots—actively rekindling relationships with the now-mainstream Egyptian Brotherhood and its popularly-elected native son, President Mohamed Morsi. It remains to be seen whether these talks will lead to any substantive action by the Morsi-led Egyptian government on behalf of the Brotherhood's Palestinian offshoots.