April 04, 2019

Hamas Charity Remains in Damascus Under Control of Assad Allies as Relations Warm

By Zach Caldwell

A March 2019 demonstration organized in Damascus by the Al-Quds International Foundation’s Syria branch alongside the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group protesting the U.S. declaration on the Golan Heights (image via al-Quds International Foundation Syria Branch social media)





The Syrian branch of Hamas charity front Al-Quds International Foundation remains stocked with Ba’ath Party insiders, as the Palestinian terrorist group eyes reconciliation with the government of Bashar al-Assad.

“Syria’s victory is a victory for Palestine,” Al-Quds International Foundation’s Syria branch said in a March 9 statement, adding that Damascus has achieved victory in standing firm in the face of “the American, western, Zionist project” against Syria and the region under Assad’s leadership.

Al-Quds Foundation-Syria’s warm support for the Assad government is a reflection of the leadership of the sanctioned charity’s branch in Syria and its close ties to the Assad government.

The U.S. government sanctioned the Lebanon-based Al-Quds International Foundation in 2012, saying the organization was established “to raise funds for Hamas projects in Jerusalem through the cover of charity.” Representatives of the charity were told, according to the U.S. government, “to consider themselves unofficial ambassadors for Hamas in their respective countries.” Although the Syrian branch of the foundation is not explicitly sanctioned by the U.S., it is an official branch of the sanctioned organization.

The Al-Quds Foundation-Syria’s board of trustees is headed by Bouthaina Shaaban, a founding member of the board, who was sanctioned by the U.S. government in 2011 as Assad’s political and media advisor. Bassel al-Jad’an, Al-Quds Foundation-Syria’s chairman, who has held leadership positions at the foundation for the last decade, is the cousin-in-law of Assad’s brother Maher al-Assad, sanctioned in 2011 for his “leading role” in human rights abuses. The charity’s general manager, Khalaf al-Moftah, is an official in Syria’s ruling Ba’ath Party.

The Syrian government closed the political bureau of Hamas in Damascus in September 2012, after Hamas’ then-leader Khaled Meshaal delivered a speech in support of the revolution in Syria. In 2008, while based in Damascus, Meshaal attended the opening of Al-Quds International’s Syria branch, where Syrian media reported first-day donations reaching $300,000.

Al-Quds stayed in Damascus throughout the Syrian conflict, even after relations between the government of Syria and Hamas deteriorated in 2012, and continued to hold public events in coordination with other organizations in Syria.

In recent years, the Al-Quds Foundation-Syria held public events along with the Syrian Arab People’s Committee for the Assistance of the Palestinian People, an Assad government-associated organization headed by former Syrian parliament speaker Muhammed Mustafa Miro.

At these and other Al-Quds Foundation-Syria events, Shaaban and fellow attendees delivered speeches emphasizing the unity between the Palestinian cause and the Syrian government’s confrontation with what Shaaban called the plans of the West. “What is happening in Syria and its countryside, its villages and its cities is the same plan that targeted Palestine and the Palestinians,” Shaaban said at a 2015 forum in Damascus.

Hamas members have also expressed conciliatory messages regarding the Assad government, a regional media outlet reported in late 2018. Ali Baraka, a Hamas representative in Lebanon, said in December 2018 that an Israeli airstrike in Syria “was an aggression on Palestine.”

Syrian state-owned media reporting on the 2019 Board of Trustees meeting of the Al-Quds International Foundation in Damascus, headed by sanctioned Assad advisor Bouthaina Shaaban. (image via Syrian Arab News Agency)

Leaders of the Syrian branch of Al-Quds International Foundation, joined by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, organized a large demonstration last week in Damascus outside the office of the United Nations to protest the Trump administration’s statements on Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The event was covered by Syrian state news agency (SANA) as well as the Hizballah-linked Al-Mayadeen TV and the Yemeni Houthi Movement's Al-Masirah TV.