The Hamas militant group is denying claims that its exiled leader, Khaled Mashaal, has been expelled from his base in Qatar.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Tuesday praising Qatar for kicking out Mashaal. It said the decision came after heavy lobbying by Israel, which considers Hamas to be a terrorist group.

Izzat Rishq, a top aide to Mashaal, said the claim, initially reported by CNN citing an unnamed Hamas news agency, was wrong.

Rishq said: "There is no basis of truth about brother Khaled Mashaal leaving Doha. We are in Doha now."

Hamas spokesman Hossam Badran in Qatar also told the AP the report was false.

There was no immediate comment from Qatar, a wealthy Gulf state that has allowed Mashaal to set up a base there.