Hamas drops Assad as Homs is evacuated; Russia intransigent

Leaders of Hamas turned against their long-time ally President Bashar Assad of Syria on Feb. 24, throwing their support behind the rebellion aimed at overturning his dynastic rule. The policy shift—announced in Hamas speeches at Friday prayers in Cairo and a rally in the Gaza Strip—deprives Assad of one of his few remaining Sunni supporters in the Arab world and deepens his international isolation. “I salute all the nations of the Arab Spring and I salute the heroic people of Syria who are striving for freedom, democracy and reform,” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told thousands at Cairo’s al-Azhar mosque. “We are marching towards Syria, with millions of martyrs,” chanted worshipers at al-Azhar. The move means a break between Hamas and its longtime de facto ally Hezbollah, which staunchly supports Assad. (Reuters, Feb. 28)

The Syrian Arab Red Crescent meanwhile began evacuating wounded or sick women and children from the Baba Amro district of the besieged city of Homs, which remains under heavy artillery fire. And Arab leaders met in Tunis to call for greater pressure on Assad. The “Friends of Syria” meeting was also attended by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton had especially harsh words for Russia and China, calling them “despicable” for opposing UN action on Syria. (Reuters, Radio New Zealand, Feb. 25)

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