Monday and Tuesday saw conflicting reports that Hamas head Khaled Meshaal, who has for the past several years been based in Qatar, was expelled from the country and preparing to flee to Turkey. Speculation began Monday night in Turkish media and continued into Tuesday afternoon, with both Doha and the Gazan terror group denying the report. The Washington Post on Tuesday noted that even though Doha has “lavished support on Hamas” in recent years, the Gulf state “has recently been trying to reconcile with Egypt, which asked that Qatar limit its support for the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group, including its offshoot, Hamas.”
Turkey is already home to several top Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood leaders – notably Saleh al-Arouri, the architect of Hamas’s West Bank infrastructure and the mastermind believed to be behind several Hamas plots, including the June kidnappings and murders of three Israeli boys, as well as Imad al-Alami, described by experts as a “founding father” of Hamas. Meshaal himself had made a surprise appearance at a rally in Turkey last month, during which he praised Ankara’s leadership and called for close Turkish-Palestinian ties to what Haaretz at the time described as a “fawning crowd” of demonstrators.
Turkish backing of Hamas is nothing new – a 2012 report in Today’s Zaman suggested that Ankara was poised to become Hamas’s top financier – but Washington has begun to face increasing criticism over the NATO ally’s sponsoring of a terror group. Reporters at a State Department press briefing last month pressed Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf on whether Turkey could “continue to be a close partner and NATO ally if, in fact, it is supporting a designated terrorist organization?”