Saudis stop Hamas,Islamic Jihad members from reaching Syria

Saudi Arabia received information that senior Hamas, Islamic Jihad members arriving in Mecca from Gaza plan to head to Damascus. Their passports taken away, returned only after they get on Egypt-bound plane

Published: 11.26.10

Saudi Arabia has prevented senior members from Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), who had made the pilgrimage from Gaza to Mecca, to continue on to Damascus to meet the leaders of their organizations, a source within one of the organizations told Ynet on Friday.

The source said that lately many senior members in Hamas and other organizations joined dozens of operatives including a group from the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades on a pilgrimage to Mecca which began in Egypt.

At the end of the Hajj period the senior members wished to continue on their journey – via Syria, but Saudi authorities, who had received information about the plan in advance, took their passports from them. The passports were returned when the senior members got on a plane bound for Egypt.

Damascus is the permanent residence of Hamas Politburo Chief Khaled Mashaal and his deputy Dr. Mousa Abu Marzouk as well as other senior Hamas members. The head of the Islamic Jihad and PRC also reside in Syria.

Ynet learned that Egyptian security forces at the Rafah Border Crossing searched the Hamas members' belongings in order to ensure that they were not attempting to smuggle funds into the Gaza strip.

Last week, 2.5 million Muslim believers from around the world made the pilgrimage on foot, by bus or by car following what is believed to be the path that the Prophet Muhammad took in the seventh century. Hajj is one of Islam's most important commandments its goal – to be purified of all sin.

The Saudi step was extremely surprising considering the strengthening relations between Saudi Arabia and Syria. The two countries are working together to avoid a crisis in Lebanon. Syrian President Basher Assad and Abdullah King of Saudi Arabia met in Beirut four months ago to discuss the security situation in Lebanon, and fears that the divided country would spiral towards a cycle of violence like the one it went through in May 2008.

Assad and Abdullah represent Lebanon's two main factions: Syria supports the Shiite Hezbollah whereas Saudi Arabia is the patron of the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the Sunni camp.,7340,L-3990290,00.html

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