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The BBC's Jim Muir
"Under the Jordanian constitution, the country cannot deport its own citizens"
 real 28k

Monday, 22 November, 1999, 01:47 GMT
Jordan exiles Hamas leaders
Mashal (left) and Ghohshe flanking another exiled Hamas activist Mousa Abu Marzouq

Jordan has exiled four senior members of the militant Islamic group Hamas, effectively ending the organisation's activities in the country.

The men - who have Jordanian nationality - were released from prison and put on a plane for Qatar.

The Hamas Portfolio
Hamas opposes Palestinian and Jordanian peace agreements with Israel
It advocates the destruction of Israel
Hamas claims responsibility for scores of deadly attacks against Israeli targets over the last 10 years
Hamas's political bureau chief, Khaled Mashal, and the organisation's spokesman, Ibrahim Ghosheh were the two most senior members expelled.

Two members of the political bureau, Izzat Rushuq and Sami Khater, were also put on the plane.

They were among more than 20 members of the group arrested in a general clamp down on Hamas which started when the Jordanian authorities closed the group's offices in Amman in August.

The other detainees have been released, apparently on the condition that they cease their political activities under the name of Hamas.

Similarly, Qatari officials have said that the deportees will not be allowed to resume their political activities.

Jordanian officials had accused Hamas of engaging in illegal activities, including the possession of firearms and inciting hardline Islamist sentiment among the Jordanian opposition.

On arrival in Qatar, Khaled Mashal immediately said that he and his colleagues would be appealing against the expulsion.

We were handcuffed and blindfolded and we were surprised to see ourselves at the steps of the plane
Khaled Mashal, Hamas political bureau chief

"We were forcibly deported and we were not consulted at all about leaving Jordan. We are Jordanian citizens and no-one has the right to send us away from home," he told reporters.

Our Middle East correspondent, Jim Muir, there may be grounds for appeal against the expulsions. Under the Jordanian constitution, the state cannot deport its own citizens.

Jordanian officials maintain that the men left willingly as part a deal agreed with Qatar.

Palestinian invitation

According to agency reports, the Palestinian communications minister, Imad Faluji, has invited Hamas to move its political offices from Jordan to the Palestinian autonomous territories.

"I suggest that the brothers of Hamas move their offices to Palestine. Hamas won't find a better place than Palestine," he is reported to have said.

Carnage in Tel Aviv from a Hamas bomb in 1994
The offer may be disingenuous. Since the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo peace accords in 1993, Hamas has been the only serious political opposition to the Palestinian National Authority.

Israel, which has so far issued no formal reaction to the expulsions, would certainly strongly oppose the relocation of Hamas's offices to Palestinian administered areas.

Political cost

The central message of Hamas, opposition to Israel and the peace process, struck a cord with many Palestinians.

Hamas also won support for its non-political activities, such as the running of schools and local social services.

For King Abdallah of Jordan, there may be some repercussions.

The crackdown on Hamas is widely seen in Jordan as the King acting at the behest of the Israel or the US.

Both see Hamas as a source of regional instability.

In 1997, Israel tried to take matters in its own hands. Israeli secret service men attempt to kill the Mr Mashal in Jordan.

The attack, which failed, ended with the capture of two Mossad agents in Amman, and was seriously damaging to Israeli-Jordanian relations.

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See also:
06 Nov 98 |  Middle East
Hamas challenges the peace-makers
09 Nov 99 |  Middle East
Jordan arrests Hamas leader
30 Aug 99 |  Middle East
Police raid Jordan Hamas office
22 Sep 99 |  Middle East
Jordan arrests Hamas leaders

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