Hamas leader Ismail Haniya greets supporters during a rally in the northern Gaza Strip. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)

Hamas Confirms Saudi Arrest of Movement’s Unofficial Representative

Mohammed Saleh al-Khoudary was organization’s liaison in the kingdom

Hamas, the Palestinian group that governs the Gaza Strip, has accused Saudi Arabia of arresting its veteran point man who oversaw relations with Riyadh.

Mohammed Saleh al-Khoudary, 81, has lived in the kingdom for decades, and had a good relationship with the Saudi royal family.

Khoudary and 60 other Palestinians living in Saudi Arabia, including his eldest son, Hani, have been detained without charge since April, Hamas said.

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem told The Media Line that Mohammed’s arrest had shocked the organization.

“This is reprehensible and surprising behavior. How is a man filling this political and diplomatic role arrested?” Qasem asked. “This man is old, chronically and terminally ill, and needs constant care. We are surprised by this unjustified Saudi behavior.”

Hamas had no information on the motivation behind the arrests, Qasem said.

Alaa Al-Rimawi, president of the Jerusalem Research Center in Ramallah, said the changing policies of Saudi Arabia since the appointment of the young and powerful Mohammad bin Salman as crown prince in June 2017 were behind the detentions.

“There are strategic shifts taking place in Saudi Arabia related to the nature and form of government and the relationship with the Israeli occupation. These arrests are not the product of the moment; they began when bin Salman took office,” Rimawi said.

He told the Media Line that these steps were part of “a campaign aimed at silencing and scaring Palestinians and others living in Saudi Arabia from sympathizing with Hamas and other Islamist groups.”

Hamas said that for almost six months it had attempted to communicate with Saudi authorities regarding the arrests, but without result. The group has rarely made public criticisms directed at the House of Saud, but Rimawi says the group felt it had to go public with the news.

“It is clear that things have reached a dead end. Kuwait is attempting to mediate but it failed so far,” he said.

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, a Geneva-based group, confirmed in a statement that Saudi authorities had jailed dozens of Palestinians. It called on King Salman bin Abdul Aziz to order their immediate release, especially those whose detentions were not based on “specific indictments.”

Riyadh has not provided an explanation for Khoudary’s arrest, but the news comes amid warming ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Moreover, the Saudis have a tense relationship with Hamas, which has close ties with Sunni Saudi Arabia’s arch enemy, Shi’ite Iran.

Rimawi says bin Salman has arrested hundreds of princesses, human right activists and anyone who he may fear poses a threat to his rule or simply questions his polices.

“The regime in Saudi Arabia is a repressive onethat imposes what it wants by force, it does not respect the judiciary and does not give any respect for justice,” according to Rimawi. “Bin Salman damaged relations with Turkey and failed in [the military intervention in] Yemen. Under [his] rule, Saudi Arabia is clearly building a policy of rapprochement with Israel and [bin Salman] wants to please America to become the next king.”

The kingdom in 2014 issued an unprecedented decision to classify as a terrorist organization the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an offshoot.

In 2017, former Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters that Qatar should stop supporting the Gaza Strip’s rulers.

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