debkafile Exclusive: Saudis bring over to Jeddah hardline Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal for last-ditch try to avert Palestinian civil war

The Hamas politburo chief traveled from Damascus disguised as a pilgrim. Saudi rulers offered him and his movement generous terms for breaking away from the Damascus-Tehran bloc, freeing the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit and signing a cooperation pact with Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas.
In a back-up move, the Saudis last week invited to Mecca the heads of the Syrian opposition in exile: former Syrian vice president Khalim Haddam, today a sworn foe of Syrian president Bashar Asad, the leader of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood Sader e-Din Ali Bayanouni and Bashar’s uncle, Rifat Asad, who aspires to oust his nephew and take his place.
This act is seen as Riyadh’s warning to Asad of dire consequences, including punitive financial measures, if he tries to disrupt this Palestinian reconciliation move. To demonstrate its importance to the oil kingdom, King Abdullah granted Meshaal a private audience.
debkafile‘s Middle East sources describe this as a direct Saudi challenge to Iran and its schemes – in contrast to the inertia displayed by the Egyptian, Jordanian and Israeli governments. The Hamas politburo chief is not generally expected to reject the Saudi proposition out of hand – certainly not the handsome remuneration on offer – but neither is Hamas inclined to turn its back on Syria and Iran, its principal suppliers of weapons and fighters. (See earlier story on this page.)
On a single day, Sunday, Oct. 22, Fatah and Hamas staged 26 reciprocal assassination attempts of each other’s commanders in a further escalation of tension. Fatah was horrified to see a Hamas parading 500 new recruits in the West Bank town of Qalqilya, a Fatah stronghold. debkafile‘s military sources comment that if Hamas was capable of lining up 500 armed recruits in a small Palestinian town on the West Bank which is surrounded on three sides by Israel’s defense barrier, it betokens a much larger Hamas militia numbering thousands ready to go – a nasty surprise for both Abu Mazen and Israel.

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