Hamas: Saudi Arabia arresting our men under U.S. pressure – Middle East

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Hamas revealed this week that its unofficial representative in Saudi Arabia has been arrested together with dozens of Hamas supporters and activists.

The Saudis have also reportedly seized assets belonging to Hamas in the kingdom.

Dr. Mohammed al-Khudari, 81, was arrested in April together with his son, Hani, Hamas said in a statement.

Described as Hamas’ unofficial representative in Saudi Arabia, al-Khudari, a physician, has been living in Red Sea port of Jeddah for the past three decades.

Denouncing the arrest as “bizarre and reprehensible,” Hamas said that dozens of its supporters and activists living in the kingdom have also been arrested in recent months.

Sources close to Hamas said at least 64 Palestinians and Jordanians have been rounded up by the Saudi authorities on suspicion of being affiliated with Hamas. The sources expressed fear that the Saudi authorities will expand their crackdown on Hamas supporters in the coming days.

Relatives of the some of the detainees complained that their sons were being held in harsh conditions in Saudi prisons. They also complained that the detainees were being denied the right to see lawyers and family members.

Hamas officials said that they refrained for months from publicly commenting on the Saudi crackdown so as not to harm secret efforts to secure the release of the detainees.

Earlier this week, however, the Hamas leadership issued a statement calling on the Saudi authorities to release al-Khudari, his son and the rest of the Palestinians and Jordanians arrested for their alleged affiliation with Hamas.

Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem said the decision to go public with the news of the crackdown came after efforts to secure the release of the detainees came to a dead end.

Qassem and other Hamas officials dismissed claims that the Saudi clampdown was connected to Hamas’s close ties with Iran.

Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, said on Wednesday that al-Khudari was involved in fund-raising for the Gaza Strip and Palestinian refugee camps. He claimed that the Saudi authorities knew about al-Khudari’s activities.

“His arrest is completely unjustified,” Zahar said. “He was updating the Saudi authorities about his actions on a regular basis. He was not acting secretly or in an illegal manner. We urge the Saudi authorities to halt this crackdown and release all the detainees.”

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have been strained since the 2016 attack on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. The attack came after Saudi Arabia executed Shiekh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shia cleric. After the attack, Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic.

Iran’s financial and military support for the Syrian regime in its conflict with opposition groups has also increased tensions between Tehran and Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has been accused of being a major supplier of aid to some of the opposition groups in Syria.

“Saudi Arabia is mistaken if it thinks that our relations with Iran are directed against the kingdom,” said a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip. “Iran supports Hamas because of its struggle against Israel.”

Relations between Hamas and Saudi Arabia took a downturn after the collapse of the February 2007 Mecca reconciliation agreement signed between Hamas and its rivals in the ruling Fatah faction.

The agreement between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and former Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal under the sponsorship of the late King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz collapsed three months later. The Saudis held Hamas responsible for the failure of the reconciliation agreement.

Although relations between Saudi Arabia and Hamas did seem to improve in the years after the collapse of the Mecca agreement, Riyadh never forgave the Hamas leaders for their alleged role in foiling the deal.

Hamas’s close ties with Qatar, meanwhile, have also increased tensions between the movement and Saudi Arabia.

In 2017, Saudi Arabia officially severed ties with Qatar, citing the latter’s “embrace of various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilizing the region,” including the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist terror groups.

“The Saudis see Hamas as an integral part of the Muslim Brotherhood,” said a Ramallah-based political analyst. “They believe that Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood pose a threat to the kingdom’s national security and regional stability.”

He and other Palestinian political analysts said that the unprecedented Saudi crackdown on Hamas was aimed in the context of Riyadh’s new strategy, which considers Iran and its proxies – including Hamas and Hezbollah – as the No. 1 enemy.

Hamas and many Palestinians have been critical of Saudi Arabia’s purported rapprochement with Israel and its close ties with US President Donald Trump’s administration. They believe that the Saudis are in collusion with the Trump administration, which the Palestinians have been boycotting since December 2017.

Wasfi Qabaha, a senior Hamas representative in the West Bank, accused Saudi Arabia on Wednesday of “implementing American policies in the region.” He claimed that the Saudis, together with the Trump administration, were seeking to force the Palestinians to accept the “Deal of the Century,” a reference to Trump’s yet-to-be-announced Middle East peace plan.

Qabaha told the Palestinian online newspaper Al-Watan Voice that the Saudi authorities have been arresting anyone who works or sympathizes with Hamas.

“They have arrested a large number of Hamas leaders and supporters in the kingdom,” Qabaha said. “Ever since he came to power, Trump has been blackmailing the Arab dictatorships. The arrests were carried out under American pressure. Saudi Arabia is trying to force Hamas to abandon its resistance against the Israeli occupation.”


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