Hamas delegation, Palestinian President Abbas to visit Saudi Arabia: reports
Rival Palestinian leaders are expected to arrive in Saudi Arabia soon amid recent rapprochement between Riyadh and regional foes.
The delegation will be headed by Ismail Haniyeh, the chief of Hamas's political bureau. He will reportedly be accompanied by senior Hamas leaders Khaled Meshaal and Musa Abu Marzouk, among others.
Relations between the Palestinian Islamic group and Riyadh have been cold since 2007 and attempts to end this tension have repeatedly failed. Some Hamas figures have been arrested in Saudi Arabia over the years and remain in prison.
Hamas’s visit "may serve as an opening to improving relations," The New Arab’s sister site, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, reported.
The visit follows the historic China-brokered deal between the kingdom and Hamas's ally Iran last month. Riyadh has in recent weeks also stepped up efforts to end the Syrian regime’s 12-year-isolation from the Arab League.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is also expected to leave for Saudi Arabia on Sunday, on a visit that will last until 19 April. He was invited to attend an Iftar dinner two weeks ago, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported.
He will reportedly be accompanied by Secretary of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Hussein Al-Sheikh, and the head of the Palestinian Intelligence Service, Majed Faraj.
Abbas is leader of the Fatah movement which heads the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank. Hamas and Fatah fought a conflict in Gaza in 2007 for control of the besieged territory, around two years following Israel’s withdrawal.
Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip afterwards.
For Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and every other Israeli official, bringing Saudi Arabia into the Abraham Accords is an important foreign policy goal. But could all that change after the recent Saudi-Iran détente? 👇— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) April 13, 2023
✍ @GiorgioCafiero & @ShehabMakahleh https://t.co/epd7oWQBon
Israeli media has reported that Hamas’ visit to Saudi Arabia is a further blow to any potential Saudi-Israeli normalisation, following Riyadh’s deal with Iran.
"A plan brokered by Washington to schedule direct flights from Tel Aviv to Mecca, allowing Israel’s Muslim citizens to more easily take part in the sacred Hajj pilgrimage, is unlikely to be finalised" Israeli officials told The Wall Street Journal.
Saudi Arabia has condemned Israel’s aggression towards Palestinians in occupied territories, including the recentl injury and detention of hundreds of worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem and ongoing deadly raids in the West Bank
Reports in recent months have claimed that Saudi Arabia was edging closer to a normalisation deal with Israel, but the kingdom has said that a deal was not possible before Israel reaches a final peace agreement with the Palestinians.