Hussein Signals 'No Vacancy' to Hamas

  • Share
  • Read Later
Sheik Ahmed Yassin, spiritual leader of the radical Palestinian group Hamas, was heartily received around most of the Arab world on a recent tour, his first after his release from an Israeli prison last October. But the welcome mat was held back in the place Yassin might have expected to find the warmest greeting. Jordan, whose King Hussein pressured Israel into freeing Yassin, twice refused him entry.

According to a senior Jordanian official, Hussein, who has for years tolerated a high-profile Hamas office in Amman, is weary of the group, which has waged a series of deadly bomb attacks in Israel. Yassin's fiery speeches on the road, calling for the destruction of Israel, were not appreciated by Hussein, who signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994. Says the Jordanian official: "The King no longer wants it thought that the leadership of Hamas is in Jordan. And if Hamas carries out a new wave of bombings, he wants Israeli eyes directed at the Gaza Strip and not here." More pointedly, a senior official of the Palestinian Authority says, "The King wants Hamas to come to the conclusion that its place is no longer in Jordan."

That may be happening. Last week Hamas sources said they were relocating the headquarters of their political wing from Jordan to Syria. That office is headed by Khaled Meshal, whom Israeli agents tried, unsuccessfully, to poison to death in Amman last year. King Hussein saved Meshal's life by forcing Israel to provide an antidote, and to free Sheik Yassin in exchange for the captured agents.