Sources: Palestinian factions close Damascus offices
Informed Palestinian sources have confirmed to Al Bawaba that four Palestinian factions have decided to close their Damascus offices in response to escalating tensions between Syria and the United States.
A Palestinian official in Damascus said that the four factions, namely Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, have ‘decided willingly’ to freeze activities in the country and hence close their offices in the Syrian capital.
The anonymous source said, “The factions received no orders from the Syrian authorities concerning the office closure. They took the decision on their own so that they wouldn’t cause Damascus any further embarrassment, particularly in view of the pressure imposed on Syria by the US which claims these organizations are ‘terrorist’ organizations.”
He added, “these offices do not exceed two or three for each faction and their activities are limited to meetings and press-related activities.” This, according to the source, “makes it easy for the various factions to close their offices, as opposed to other factions such as the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) which, in addition to its press-related activities, also provides services for several [Palestinian] refugee camps in Damascus.”
The source said the factions closed their offices last Tuesday [May 6], and since then they have not released any declarations or statements to the press or otherwise. As a confirmation to that, Al Bawaba was unable to obtain any statements from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP and PLFP - General Command to comment on the situation.
It should be mentioned that Ahmed Jibril -- leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command has stated he was ready to close offices in Syria in order to ease U-S pressure, but he has not heard from Damascus. The group "is ready to meet the Syrian demands if such demands are useful for Syrian policy," Jibril told reporters in Damascus.
Hamas spokesman in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan, told Al Bawaba that he had “no comment” when asked to speak about the developments. Hamas never did have a ‘physical’ office in Damascus as its activities were carried out from the home of Khaled Mish’al, head of Hamas politburo.
Following a meeting with the Syrian president last week, US secretary of state Colin Powell said that Syrian American relations would depend on Damascus’ response to US demands, which included the closure of Palestinian offices and curbing Lebanon’s Hizbullah.
Not too long after leaving Damascus, Powell announced at a press conference in Beirut (his next stop on a tour of the Middle East) that the Syrians have indeed begun closing the offices of the Palestinian factions in Damascus. However, the various groups reiterated then to Al Bawaba that there was no change in their ‘situation’ and that their duties have not been affected [by the visit]. (Albawaba.com)