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Monday, August 30, 1999 Published at 20:42 GMT 21:42 UK

World: Middle East

Jordan shuts down Hamas office

Israel has repeatedly asked Jordan to close the Hamas office

Jordanian security forces have closed down the office of the militant Palestinian group Hamas in Amman.

Several members of the organisation were arrested in a raid on the offices, which the authorities said were being used illegally for political purposes.

BBC Middle East Correspondent Barbara Plett: "The group's opposition to peace deals have often led to tense relations"
A senior Hamas official in Palestinian-ruled Gaza on Monday described Jordan's closure of the group's office as unfortunate.

Mahmoud al-Zahar said: "I don't think the move will affect the activities of Hamas.

"It is possible to move the offices of the movement someplace else. The strength and body of the group exists in Palestine."

Israel has repeatedly asked Jordan, its main ally in the Arab world, to close down Hamas offices.

[ image: Sheikh Yassin was released after the botched Israeli assasination attempt]
Sheikh Yassin was released after the botched Israeli assasination attempt
The authorities have issued warrants for four of the group's leaders, but they are believed to be out of the country.

The leaders were named as Ibrahim Ghosheh, spokesman for Hamas in Amman, Musa Abu Marzuk, head of the movement's political bureau, Khaled Mashaal, and Mohammad Nazzal.

Two years ago, Mr Mashaal was the target of a botched assassination attempt in Jordan by the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad.

The incident threatened to sour Israel's relations with Jordan. Israel was forced to release the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, after the assassination attempt.

Israeli demands

The BBC's Paul Adams in Jerusalem says any move against Hamas by Jordan in the wake of the assassination attempt would have been seen as too hasty and politically sensitive.

But now that a "discreet" amount of time has elapsed, it is possible the Jordanian Government is carrying out Israel's demands, according to our correspondent.

Hamas also operates in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but it is believed the relationships between the wings are strained, with the Amman grouping being seen as more radical.

Hamas opposes moves to revive the Middle East peace process in its current form.

Our correspondent says the crackdown by the Jordanian authorities will make it more difficult for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to pursue recent moves towards reconciliation with Hamas.

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