Hamas says Ismail Haniyeh chosen as Islamic group's leader

Geneva Matthews
May 9, 2017

Hamas said its former chief in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, was elected overall head of the Palestinian group on Saturday, succeeding Khaled Meshaal.

Founded in 1987 as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, the banned Egyptian Islamist movement, Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2007 and has carried out hundreds of armed attacks in Israel and in Israeli-occupied territories.

"The Hamas Shura Council Saturday elected Ismail Haniya as head of the movement's political bureau", the Hamas media said.

Haniyeh's rise was the latest sign of a power shift in Hamas from overseas to Gaza, which has been under Hamas rule since a violent 2007 takeover.

They had previously lived in Ashkelon (or Asqalan in Arabic), which is today part of Israel and just next to the border with the Gaza Strip. Though it has softened some of its rhetoric, Hamas' new platform clung to the hard-line positions that led to its isolation. The ultimatum threatened that Hamas would expand by 30 the list of Palestinian prisoners for whom it demands release - one prisoner for every day Israel refuses to accept the demands of the hunger strikers. In 1992, he was exiled by Israel, along with scores of Hamas leaders, to southern Lebanon for about a year.

Abbas has been an outspoken opponent of violence, saying it undercuts palestinian interests.

Haniyeh called for Palestinian reconciliation with Fatah movement and he expressed he is ready to relinquish the premiership within the framework of comprehensive reconciliation.

Haniya's election may even jumpstart the stalled unification attempt by the Islamic Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and the secular Palestinian Authority, which controls Palestinians living in the West Bank.

"A new page in our long history is opening tonight". He was the private secretary of Hamas' founder and spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin.

Haniyeh, who also served as Mashaal's deputy for four years, is a familiar figure in Gaza, where he still lives in a heavily guarded compound.

Hamas ignored the dismissal and a Haniyeh-led Hamas government remained in place in Gaza, while Abbas appointed a rival administration in autonomous West Bank enclaves under his control.

Abbas dismissed Haniyeh in 2007, after the Hamas takeover of Gaza.

Challenging the Palestinian Authority: The Palestinian arena is in a zero-sum struggle between the PA, which does not rule Gaza, and Hamas, which is openly contesting the legitimacy of PA rule and working to oust it and take over the PLO institutions.

In Gaza, where Haniyeh still resides in his home in a refugee camp, some residents saw his election as a sign that could draw attention to the territory's woes. "If a person is from outside Gaza, he won't talk about Gaza's ordeals and worries properly".

Laying the groundwork to take over the PLO: At present, Hamas' overriding aim is to translate the political power it has accumulated via its control of the Gaza Strip and the support it receives from Islamic states such as Iran to take over the representative Palestinian institutions that are recognized by the worldwide community.

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