A senior Hamas official in Gaza said on Saturday the Palestinian Islamist movement is not taking sides in the conflict between the regime and the insurgency in Syria.
"Our position on Syria is the same as on other Arab revolutions," said Mahmoud Zahar. "We cannot take one side, with half a million Palestinians living in complete freedom in Syria having to (face the consequences) of this position."
Late last month, the head of the Hamas government in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, offered his support to "the heroic Syrian people, who are striving for freedom, democracy and reform."
That was a departure from the movement's previously professed neutrality to the protest in Syria, where the Hamas leadership in exile is based.
"We advised the Syrian regime to solve its problems by giving more freedom to the Syrian people, in order to strengthen Syria so that it would be able to free the occupied Golan territory and support the resistance (against Israel)," Zahar said on the sidelines of a medical forum in Gaza.
"We do not seek to get involved in internal or regional Arab conflicts. Our fundamental struggle is directed against the Israeli occupation of Palestine," he said.
News reports, systematically denied by Hamas, reported a de facto departure of its top leadership in exile from the Syrian capital, due to the brutal repression of dissent, involving the Muslim Brotherhood, which is ideologically close to the Palestinian Islamist movement.