(Reuters) - The leader of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, has effectively abandoned his headquarters in the Syrian capital, Damascus, diplomatic and intelligence sources said on Friday.
"Meshaal is not staying in Syria as he used to do. He is almost out all the time," said a diplomat in the region who spoke on condition on anonymity.
A regional intelligence source, who also did not wish to be identified, said: "He's not going back to Syria. That's the decision he's made. There's still a Hamas presence there, but it's insignificant."
Damascus is isolated following a bloody, 10-month uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad and is not secure, the diplomat said, adding that Meshaal was no longer able to receive international visitors there.
Analysts say Meshaal was also embarrassed by Assad's violent crackdown, with more than 5,000 people reported killed. Many victims of the security forces have been Sunni Muslims allied to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose support Meshaal relies on.
Assad is backed mainly by his minority Alawite sect and other minorities.
The sources said Meshaal would not publicly shut down the political headquarters of Hamas in Syria, where it has long been hosted by Assad and by his father before him.
"In the past month he may have only stayed five days in Syria and the rest he spent in Qatar, Turkey and Egypt," said the diplomat. "But he did not close the headquarters in Syria in full and there are some Hamas officials still there."
"Our belief is that Hamas will not announce a departure from Syria even if it happened," the diplomat added.
The sources said Meshaal was currently in Egypt. But "there was no agreement to open an office in Cairo. Not yet," said the diplomat. "The expected residence for Meshaal is Qatar where he may stay most of the time until the Syria smoke has cleared." more
A year ago on January 23, 14-year-old Islam Dar Ayoub Tamimi was arrested at gunpoint after the Israeli army surrounded his house at around 1:30am. A few days before, on January 17, Islam’s house was one of many in the village of Nabi Saleh that were raided by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), where the soldiers then proceeded to take pictures of all males over the age of 12.
A month later, Islam’s younger brother eleven year old Kareem was chased down and hauled off by the Israeli police where he was illegally interrogated for two hours before getting released.
During his arrest, Islam was taken out of bed at gunpoint and violently taken to a military jeep, handcuffed and blindfolded. His brother Omar (who remains in detention after getting arrested during the West Bank car protest on Israeli only roads earlier this month) was beaten up as he tried to help Islam...
...The Popular Struggle website outlies some of the ways Islam’s rights were violated:
* The boy was arrested at gunpoint in the dead of night, during a violent military raid on his house. * Despite being a minor, he was denied sleep in the period between his arrest and questioning, which began the following morning and lasted over 5 hours. * Despite being told he would be allowed to see a lawyer, he was denied legal counsel, although his lawyer appeared at the police station requesting to see him. * He was denied his right to have a parent present during his questioning. The testimony of one of his interrogators before the court suggests that he believes Palestinian minors do not enjoy this right. * He was not informed of his right to remain silent, and was even told by his interrogators that he “must tell of everything that happened.” * Only one of four interrogators who participated in the questioning was a qualified youth interrogator.