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Hamas considers Malaysia its gateway to Asia

12 3 0

In recent months, Malaysia has witnessed a series of successive visits by high-ranking delegations from Hamas, indicating the growing ties between these two parties at a time when the movement is facing a tight political siege by many Arab countries.

Hamas’ most recent visit to Malaysia late last month came under the chairmanship of its former head of office, Khaled Meshaal. The program was crowded with meetings between Hamas’ leaders, the Malaysian government and opposition political leaders, in a rare scene among the movement’s visits to various countries.

Hamas started its visit to Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur by meeting with Prime Minister Mahathir Bin Mohamad, as well as then Interior Minister and Head of the Malaysian United Indigenous Party (Bersatu Party), Muhyiddin Yassin, and Defense Minister Mohamad Bin Sabu.

The group also met with Head of the People’s Justice Party, Anwar Ibrahim, Head of the opposition United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) Party, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Leader of the Malaysian Islamic Party Abdul HadiAwang, Minister of Federal Territories Khalid Abdul Samad, and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Marzuki Yahya.

In his highly-publicised meetings, Meshaal discussed the challenges the Palestinian people are currently facing, among which are Israeli violations against Jerusalem, the expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, and the Gaza Strip’s ongoing siege.

Hamas’ delegation also discussed with its Malaysian hosts the “deal of the century”, considering it a plan to undermine the Palestinian cause. The visit resulted in positive outcomes, the most important of which was Malaysia’s offering of 140 scholarships for Palestinian students to attend 13 Malaysian universities, at a cost of $3 million.

READ : Malaysia PM, ex-Hamas chief discuss ‘deal of the century’

A long history of relations

Prior to Meshaal’s visit, Head of Hamas’ Political Bureau Ismail Haniyeh contacted Prime Minister Bin Mohamad in January to emphasise the importance of the bilateral relationship between Malaysia and Palestine in general and Hamas in particular. He praised Malaysia’s support for the Gaza Strip and pointed to Mahathir’s speech at the United Nations – which held Israel responsible for the problems in the Middle East – as well as commended the prime minister’s commitment to the Palestinian cause and Malaysia’s rejection of normalisation with Israel.

Chairman of the political bureau of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh speaks during the funeral of Palestinian teenagers Louay Kahil and Amir Al-Namara, who were killed in an Israeli air strike at a mosque during their funeral in Gaza City on 15 July, 2018 [Ashraf Amra/Apaimages]

Chairman of the political bureau of Hamas, Ismail........

© Middle East Monitor