Hamas delegation, Palestinian President Abbas to visit Saudi Arabia: reports

Hamas delegation, Palestinian President Abbas to visit Saudi Arabia: reports
3 min read
16 April, 2023
Hamas leaders who have previously had tense relations with Saudi Arabia will visit the country at the same time as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh (left) and Khalid Meshaal (centre) will be in Saudi Arabia at the same time as Mahmoud Abbas (right) [Getty]

Rival Palestinian leaders are expected to arrive in Saudi Arabia soon amid recent rapprochement between Riyadh and regional foes.  

A high-ranking delegation of the Hamas movement which controls the Gaza Strip will be in Saudi Arabia for the Umra pilgrimage to Mecca as Ramadan comes to an end.

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.

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.