Hamas ‘shocked' after Saudis demand Qatar to end support
Hamas expressed anger on Wednesday after Saudi Arabia demanded that Qatar end its support for the Palestinian Islamist movement as part of rising tensions between Gulf Arab states.
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir said on Tuesday that Qatar must stop funding "extremist groups", including Hamas and other Muslim Brotherhood affiliates, in order to restore ties with the most powerful GCC states.
Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, "undermines the Palestinian Authority," the Saudi minister added.
Qatar denies providing financial support to Hamas, saying it supports Palestinians, and categorically refuses all allegations it finances terrorist groups.
Hamas and Saudi Arabia have had a complicated relationship, but never before has Riyadh suggested the Palestinian group, whose supporters insist is a legitimate resistance fighting the occupation, was an extremist group. During a visit by Donald Trump to Riyadh in late May, the pro-Israel president denounced Hamas as a terror group, and Riyadh did not object.
The Palestinian movement said the party felt "deep regret and disapproval" at the Saudi comments in a statement on its website.
"These statements are a shock to our Palestinian people and to our Arab and Islamic nation, which considers the Palestinian cause its central cause," Hamas said.
On Sunday, Hamas denied reports which stated Qatar had asked several leaders to leave the country, but said some senior officials may be relocated to new locations based on "work requirements."
In 2012, Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani made a high-profile visit to the Gaza Strip in what was seen a major boost for Hamas and a sign of Qatar's growing regional influence.
Qatar has provided tens of millions of dollars for the reconstruction of Gaza since the last conflict with Israel in 2014, but denies funding Hamas.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain all cut off diplomatic contact with Qatar on Monday morning, after officially accusing it of "sponsoring terrorism".
In what appears to be a coordinated move, foreign office officials alleged without proof that Qatar was responsible for supporting the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda "at all levels" in an unprecedented diplomatic spat for the Gulf region.