The first overt sign that the Palestinian Islamic group Hamas had decided it could no longer afford to ally itself with Syria (and by extension Iran) came last February when exiled Hamas leader Khalid Mish’al closed the group’s offices in Damascus and moved to Qatar. And the rift was confirmed on 24 February when the Hamas leader in Gaza, Isma’il Hanniya, told worshippers at al-Azhar in Cairo – the bastion of Sunni Islam –that “I salute the heroic people of Syria who are striving for freedom, democracy and reform.”

Curiously, this development evoked little if any official reaction from the Syrians at the time. But this shortfall has now been remedied with a commentary on state-run TV on 1 October reminding Mr Mish’al that Syria had embraced him “like an orphan looking for shelter after other countries shut the door in his face” and that “as long as you are in an emotional state regarding the suffering of the Syrian people, why do you not give the same due attention to the people of Palestine…in occupied territories?” (CONTINUED - 281 WORDS)