Hamas' Gaza premier Ismail Haniya hailed on Friday the "heroic" Syrian struggle for democracy during a rally at Cairo's Al-Azhar mosque, in a departure from his movement’s refusal to criticize Damascus.
"I salute all the people of the Arab Spring, or rather the Islamic Winter," Haniya told several thousand cheering people who attended a rally in support of the Palestinians and Syrians.
"I salute the heroic Syrian people, who are striving for freedom, democracy and reform," he added.
"No Iran, no Hizbullah. Syria is Islamic," chanted the protesters, in an apparent reference to the Syrian regime's Shiite Muslim supporters.
Until now, the Hamas political leadership has refused to criticize President Bashar Al-Assad's crackdown on an 11-month long uprising, even when Assad's forces targeted a Palestinian refugee camp.
The Islamist movement's politburo has been based in Damascus, but it is reportedly leaving Syria -- its main backer along with Iran -- as Assad's regime faces growing Arab isolation.
In January, its leadership denied it was relocating its headquarters, but politburo members are believed to be setting up offices in several Arab countries.
Its silence on Assad's crackdown, especially after the Ramel refugee camp came under attack in August, was seen as embarrassment, as a rival leader in the Palestine Liberation Organization denounced the attack.
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