Hamas on Monday urged Hizbullah to withdraw its forces from Syria, where they are fighting alongside the government forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and focus on Israel instead.
Hamas was once an Assad ally but last year endorsed the revolt against him in a shift that at the time deprived the Syrian leader of an important Sunni Muslim supporter in the Arab world.
“We call on Hizbullah to take its forces out of Syria and to keep their weapons directed against the Zionist enemy,” Moussa Abu Marzouk, a Cairo-based Hamas leader, said in a statement.
The call marked a further deterioration in relations between Hamas and Hizbullah, two long-time allies who have each fought against Israel and advocate its destruction.
Abu Marzouk said Shi’ite Muslim Hizbullah’s involvement in Syria, where Assad, a member of the Shi’ite-rooted Alawite sect, is fighting mainly Sunni rebels, had stoked sectarian conflict.
Hamas has denied some Lebanese media reports that its fighters were present in Syria to train rebels in weaponry, bomb-making and tunnel digging.
On Friday, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah promised his group would keep fighting alongside Assad’s forces after it spearheaded the recapture of the strategic town of Qusair.
Hamas’s leaders in exile were once based in Damascus but left, mainly for Egypt and Qatar, in 2012 as the civil war escalated.