Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh waves to his supporters following his speech after Friday prayers at Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh waves to his supporters following his speech after Friday prayers at Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo. Reuters

Palestinian resistance movement Hamas publicly decried Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and threw its support behind an opposition party and Syria's anti-government protesters.

I salute all the nations of the Arab Spring and I salute the heroic people of Syria who are striving for freedom, democracy and reform, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said while visiting the al-Azhar mosque in Cairo.

Just hours after UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said that Britain officially recognizes the Syrian National Council as a legitimate representative of Syrian people, the SNC won an unusual ally in the Palestinian group.

Hamas has been a supporter of -- and has been supported by -- the Assad regime for years. But the deep ties between the two have been weakening over the past 11 months, after Assad launched a violent crackdown against mostly Sunni protesters in his country. Like the opposition, Hamas is made up of Sunnis, the religious majority in Syria, while Assad and his government are part of the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

The hearts of the Palestinian people bleed with every drop of bloodshed in Syria, senior Hamas member Salah al-Bardaweel said at a rally in Gaza. No political considerations will make us turn a blind eye to what is happening on the soil of Syria.

Nations do not get defeated. They do not retreat and they do not get broken. We are on your side and on the side of all free peoples, said Bardaweel.

God is Greatest, the crowd chanted to him. Victory to the people of Syria.

Hamas' exiled leaders, including political chairman Khaled Mashal, have been based in Syria for a decade, but they have reportedly been staying away from their Damascus office for nearly a year and have now completely abandoned their headquarters. According to reports, Hamas leadership now splits its time between Qatar, Egypt, and Lebanon.

Hamas is believed to still be a supporter of Iran, which is in turn a supporter of Syria, although Haniyeh visited Tehran last month and the tones of the meetings were hardly compatible with continued warm relations with Iran, Reuters reported.

Iran is also a supporter of Hezbollah, and relations between the Lebanese movement and Hamas could also hypothetically sour.