"We are restoring our relations with Syria with the consensus of our leadership," senior Hamas leader Khalil al Hayya tells media in the Syrian capital Damascus.
Two senior officials from Palestine's Hamas have visited Syria's capital in the first such visit since the movement was forced to leave the war-torn country a decade ago over backing armed opposition forces.
Wednesday's visit appears to be the first step toward full reconciliation between Hamas and the Syrian regime and follows months of mediation by Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah — both key backers of Bashar al Assad.
"We are restoring our relations with Syria with the consensus of our leadership," senior Hamas leader Khalil al Hayya told a press conference.
"We have overcome the past," he said, terming the meeting with Assad as "historic" and "positive".
Hayya described the meeting as a "natural response to Israeli schemes against the Palestinian cause."
"We are a united nation and resistance in the face of Zionist projects," he said. "Syria is supportive of the cause and the Palestinians, and we assured President Assad that we are with a united Syria."
Hayya said Türkiye and Qatar, the main opposition supporters in Syria's civil war, were informed about Hamas' decision to re-establish ties with Assad.
Besides Hayya, top Hamas official Osama Hamdan was among several officials representing different Palestinian factions who were received by Assad.
Over the years, Tehran and Hezbollah have maintained their relations with Hamas, despite Assad's rift with the Palestinian movement that governs Gaza.
Before the civil war, since 1999, Hamas had long kept a political base in Syria, receiving Damascus' support in its campaign against Israel. Hamas' powerful leadership-in-exile remained in Syria even after the group assumed power in Gaza in 2007.
The Syria tour comes after Hamas signed a reconciliation deal with Palestine's Fatah in Algiers last week, vowing to hold elections by next October in a bid to settle a 15-year rift.
READ MORE: Fatah-Hamas deal: Can Palestinians have a united front against Israel?
Palestinian politics have been deeply divided since Hamas took control of Gaza from its rival party Fatah in 2007. On Thursday, key factions came together after months of talks to sign the so-called Algiers Declaration pic.twitter.com/M3QgYyE2DP— TRT World (@trtworld) October 14, 2022
Last month, Hamas said it will pursue efforts to normalise relations with the Syrian regime.
"The new rapprochement is a belated recognition on the part of Hamas that all roads to continuing Iranian assistance lead to Damascus," said Fawaz Gerges, professor of international relations and Middle Eastern politics at the London School of Economics.
"Hamas bit the bullet. Assad’s political gain is Hamas’ moral loss."
Al Hayya has regularly visited Beirut over the years, meeting with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah; their last meeting was in August.
Assad told the Palestinian delegation that "despite the war that Syria is being subjected to, it did not change its stance of backing resistance by all forms," SANA news agency reported.
He added that Syria "that everyone knew before and after the war will not change and will continue as a supporter of resistance" movements.
Hamas' re-establishing of a Damascus base would mark its rejoining the so-called Iran-led "axis of resistance" as Tehran works to gather allies at a time when talks with world powers over Iran's nuclear programme are stalled.
Over the past few years, Syrian regime forces have captured much of Syria with the help of Assad's main backers Russia and Iran.
The 11-year conflict has killed hundreds of thousands, destroyed large parts of the country and displaced half of Syria's pre-war population of 23 million, including more than five million refugees outside the country, with almost four million hosted by Türkiye alone.
READ MORE: Hamas 'working to avoid escalation' with Israel