Report: Hamas training Syrian rebels in Damascus area

(JTA) — Militiamen from the Hamas military wing are training Syrian rebels, according to a report in the Times of London.

The report on Friday said members of the Izzadin Kassam Brigades are training Free Syrian Army units in rebel-held neighborhoods in the Syrian capital.

A Hamas official in Lebanon vehemently denied the reports. 

“It’s a false thing," the Times quoted Osaman Hamdan as saying. "There are no members of Izzadin Kassam or any militant members of Hamas in Syria."

He added, "We don’t interfere in the internal problems of Syria.”

The Times reported that the military unit of Hamas, which broke ties with Syrian President Bashar Assad in the wake of the insurgency, began training the rebels in the Damascus neighbourhoods of Yalda, Jaramana and Babbila.

“The Kassam Brigades have been training units very close to Damascus," a Western diplomat with contacts in both the Assad regime and the Syrian opposition told the London daily newspaper. "These are specialists. They are really good.” 

According to the Times, Hamas has assisted in the digging of a tunnel beneath Damascus in preparation for an attack on the city, a skill that Hamas has honed smuggling supplies from Egypt into the Gaza Strip.

Khaled Meshal, Hamas’ top political leader, quietly left Damascus in February last year as the Syrian uprising intensified and relocated to Qatar.

The same month, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh declared the movement’s support for the Syrian opposition. Syrian state-run media accused Meshal of being “ungrateful and treacherous.”

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