Malaysia PM Meets Hamas Chief in Qatar in Show of Support

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(Bloomberg) -- Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim met with a Hamas delegation during his visit to Qatar, in a fresh show of support for the group designated a terrorist organization by the US.

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Anwar expressed Malaysia’s gratitude toward Hamas for its willingness to release hostages and accept a peace plan put forward by the Arab world, according to a Facebook post on Tuesday. He also called on Israel to end its attacks on Palestinians, release prisoners and agree to the plan.

“Malaysia will remain committed to play its role on the international level for an end to the attacks on Rafah,” Anwar said in the Facebook post.

Anwar has been the staunchest advocate of the Palestinian cause in Southeast Asia, saying last year Malaysia would not recognize what he says was a unilateral attempt by the US to restrict support of Hamas. Malaysian leaders have a long history of friendly ties with the group and routinely turn up at protests at home against the US and the western world’s support of Israel.

Hamas’s political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, led the delegation, Anwar said. The prime minister conveyed his condolences to Haniyeh on the death of his family. Anwar was also given an update on the latest situation in Gaza and Rafah.

Anwar has taken on more pro-Islamic views since coming to power in 2022 to appeal to the ethnic Malay majority, who are Muslim by law.

The premier said later in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Haslinda Amin at the Qatar Economic Forum that Malaysia’s relations with the US remained excellent despite their opposing stance on Hamas. Investments from its trading partner were still flowing into the Asian nation in an “aggressive” manner, he said.

“We do differ in some of their policies, what are considered the contradictions, hypocrisy,” Anwar said. “But overall, they’re still friends” of Malaysia, he said.

The Israeli military estimates at least 300,000 people have left Rafah since May 6, once a haven from Israeli bombardments in the north. More than 1 million people are estimated to be suffering from “catastrophic” food insecurity, according to the UN.

Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 in Israel and taking 250 others hostage. Since Israel’s retaliatory military offensive, about 35,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Gaza health ministry, which is run by Hamas.

Hamas opened a political office in Qatar more than a decade ago in coordination with the US after it requested a channel to communicate with the group. Qatar acts as a mediator for indirect talks between Israel, Hamas and Western powers.

--With assistance from Kok Leong Chan and Ram Anand.

(Updates with further comments from Anwar in seventh, eighth paragraphs.)

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