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Hamas elects former Gaza premier Ismail Haniyeh as new leader

Eleena Tovar | 10 May, 2017, 14:47

Saturday's announcement by Hamas's political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal that Ismail Haniyeh had been chosen as his successor was seen by Palestinians as anything but a surprising or dramatic move.

Abdulatif al-Qanou, Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said in a statement that Haniya replaced Kahled Meshaal, the Hamas leader who has been the chief of the movement for eight years, Xinhua news agency reported.

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.

The worldwide community widely recognizes the area defined by the 1967 borders as the site of a future Palestinian state, sitting alongside Israel in a so-called two-state solution.

Hamas also severed its ties with the Muslim Brotherhood in the changes which have been seen as an attempt to improve ties with Fatah, Egypt and the wider worldwide community.

It also says Hamas's struggle is not with Jews but with "occupying Zionist aggressors".

Haniya served as Palestinian prime minister after Hamas won a 2006 parliamentary election but was sacked by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Islamist movement and political party Hamas has embarked on a change of image.

It had been directed from Doha and from Damascus since Israel assassinated the movement's founding father Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza in 2004. In 1992, he was exiled by Israel, along with scores of Hamas leaders, to southern Lebanon for about a year. Lieberman said that if he were defense minister, Haniya would be dead within 48 hours if he did not return two Israeli men and the remains of two soldiers that Hamas is believed to be holding in Gaza.

Haniyeh called for Palestinian reconciliation with Fatah movement and he expressed he is ready to relinquish the premiership within the framework of comprehensive reconciliation. The repeated promises by current Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to assassinate Haniyeh within 48 hours of becoming defense minister if the bodies of two missing Israeli soldiers are not returned has always been forgotten. Prior to that, for 10 years, he worked for Hamas charities as well as at the Islamic University of Gaza.

The new document stresses it does not mean that Hamas now recognises Israel's right to exist or that it no longer advocates violence against Israel.