Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat – Two high-level ranking Hamas leaders have vehemently emphasized that the Hamas organization does not operate in any Arab or non-Arab territory and that it has no military activity except in Palestine. In statements to Asharq Al-Awsat, Yahya Musa and Atif Adwan stressed that Hamas is satisfied with the Syrian role in supporting the Palestinian issue, and noted that Syria’s stance is different from the stances adopted by several Arab countries. They said that Hamas respects the Syrian option to hold dialogue with Israel, that these negotiations are legitimate, and that there is no reason for concern about the outcome of these negotiations.
Both Hamas leaders were commenting on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s interview in Asharq Al-Awsat where he stated that Hamas and Hezbollah would not attack Israel from Syria. He pointed out that in the direct negotiations with Israel through Turkish mediation efforts, he reached a stage closer to an agreement than that reached in the era of his father’s negotiations with the then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and former US President Bill Clinton in 2000.
Yahya Musa, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and deputy leader of the Hamas bloc in the council, said that Hamas does not interfere in the affairs or options of other Arab country, but respects these options. He added: “We know that the Arab regimes have their own needs, but we do not interfere in the political dealings that have to do with the circumstances, balances, and situations facing these countries.”
Musa said that the Muslim community of nation should focus its efforts on backing the Palestinian issue because it is an Arab and Islamic cause. He added: “We are against the divisions that prompted the nation to shirk its responsibility toward contributing to the Palestinian efforts and resistance to the occupation. However, this does not mean that we should dictate to this or that country advice.” He added: “These are big and independent states that have their own conditions, circumstances, and complicated situations.” He stressed that “we accept whatever all Arab countries any effort they make and whatever they offer. We consider that a state like Syria has borne a great deal in the interest of the Palestinian question. We are satisfied with the Syrian position that embraces the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine and defends it in various forums.” He said: “We did not oppose the other Arab countries that took a position against Hamas, nor did we attack them or make an issue with them. We accepted their efforts and dealt with them according to what Arab relations and sensitivities dictate.”
As to why Hamas rejects Palestinian-Israeli negotiations whereas it agrees to Arab-Israeli negotiations, Musa said: “The Palestinian affair concerns us. We are responsible for our people, and have our free option entrusted with us by our people.”
Discussing the Syrian president’s remark that Hamas does not carry out operations across the Syrian territory, Musa said: “We do not carry out operations in any Arab or non-Arab country. We have no activities of military or security nature anywhere except in the land of Palestine.” He added: “Our enemy is clear; we know him. Our enemy occupies our land and we are in political and national conflict with him over our rights. When this enemy gives up his occupation of our land, we will have no problem with anyone.” He added: “The scope of the conflict is clear and limited, and we do not have any conflict with any agenda in the world.”
For his part, Atif Adwan, member of the Legislative Council and former cabinet minister in the Hamas government, said that the Syrian president is aware of Hamas’s strategy that the land of confrontation is the occupied Palestinian territories only. He added: “Hamas does not use the land of others because this runs counter to its strategy and to that of Hezbollah, which basically operates to liberate the Lebanese, not the Syrian territories.” He added: “We (Hamas and Hezbollah) operate to liberate the occupied territories and so the Syrian president stressed issues that are almost specific and that are known to Hamas and Hezbollah.”
Regarding the Syrian-Israeli negotiations, Adwan said that Hamas supports the principle of liberating any Arab territory through legitimate means. He added: “We believe that the [Syrian] dialogue [with Israel] is legitimate and we are not opposed to this issue. Hamas believes that since the Syrian leadership has decided to negotiate [with Israel], it will determine what is acceptable and what is not.”
Adwan ruled out the possibility that any result of these negotiations would affect Syria’s relationship with the resistance. He noted that Syria declared its position that reaching peace with Israel would not change its stand on the resistance movements. He added: “Syria has been a natural extension for the Palestinian resistance since 1936. I do not think Syria will change its position, particularly because it adopts a position that differs from that of several Arab countries which maintained and established relations with the West influenced by the West’s relations with Israel.” He said: “Syria may partly alter its policy, but will not make any major change as to stand against the resistance. So there is no reason for concern.” He said that up to this moment Syria has not taken any stance that disturbs Hamas, adding: “In fact, there is high-level coordination with us and Syria accepts Hamas and provides it with facilities, which is satisfactory to Hamas.” He described the Syrian regime as “one that has a sense of responsibility toward the Palestinian question.”