Senior Hamas members – including the chief of its political bureau, Khaled Mashal – have left Damascus in recent days, the London-based newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported on Sunday.

However, other sources reported that Mashal is residing inside the Iranian embassy in Damascus to protect himself against a possible Israeli attack.

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat also said Mashal’s deputy, Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, and other senior Hamas members have left Damascus, some to Beirut, others to Qatar.

Abu Marzook, who holds an Egyptian passport, is said to have asked the Egyptian authorities for shelter in Cairo or El Arish.

Syrian sources confirmed to the newspaper that there has not been any Hamas activity in Damascus for a number of months after the groups media office was closed several months ago.

After the Tuesday double bombing in Be’er Sheva, Israel pointed finger at Hamas’s “outside leadership” as being directly responsible.

Army leaders threatened with targeting Hamas leadership in Syria and Lebanon. Hamas’s military wing Izeddin Qassam warned with responding by attacking abroad Israeli targets.