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Hamas elects Haniya as new chief of Islamic movement

08 May 2017

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

Ismail Haniya was born in the Shati refugee camp to the west of Gaza City and although a close associate of Hamas's spiritual leader, the late Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, he was relatively unknown until he headed the Hamas list that won the Palestinian legislative election of January 2006 and became prime minister.

The 54-year-old with a salt-and-pepper beard takes charge as it seeks to ease its global isolation while not marginalising hardliners within the movement.

Hamas last week dropped its longstanding call for Israel's destruction and severed ties with the Muslim Brotherhood in a policy shakeup announced at its main overseas office in the Qatari capital.

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.

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It also says its struggle is not against Jews due to their religion but against the Zionist entity as an occupier.

The new document defines Hamas' goals as "political and not religious", easing its entry into the Palestine Liberation Organization, headed by Abbas.

In the decade since, Hamas has fired thousands of rockets at civilian centers in Israel, survived three wars against the Israeli army, and, Israeli officials say, continuously built up its military force.

Haniyeh lives in Gaza, unlike Meshaal, who is based in Qatar. Meshaal had led the movement since 1996.

"Hamas is ready to initiate a new phase of its history".

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A spokesman for Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas was "attempting to fool the world but it will not succeed".

Yahya Sinwar was jailed by Israel until October 2011, when he was released along with more than 1,000 other Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured five years earlier.

Hamas, which is considered a terror group by the United States and Israel, has dismissed his strategy of negotiations as a waste of time.

In 1981 he joined the Islamic University and majored in Arabic Literature.

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Hamas elects Haniya as new chief of Islamic movement