Ex-Gaza chief Ismail Haniyeh elected leader of Hamas

Ex-Gaza chief Ismail Haniyeh elected leader of Hamas

The former deputy chief will take over from Khaled Meshaal.

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

Hamas has sharply criticized Abbas' political program, which rests on setting up a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast War.

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

This new position from Hamas comes from a new document labeled, "A Document of General Principles and Policies", which highlights a set of changes to the original Hamas charter of 1988.

Hamas's relations with Egypt have strained following the 2013 coup against Egyptian president and Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi.

"This visit is a message to our heroic prisoners that your cause was and will remain a top priority", he said, adding that Hamas continued to stand with hundreds of prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails.

"Under its new leadership, the movement must continue and intensify its efforts to strengthen internal Palestinian relations ... strengthen the steadfastness of our people, and mobilize Arab, Islamic and worldwide powers to stand by the Palestinian people", said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum in a statement announcing Haniyeh's selection.

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Haniyeh's selection marks the final phase of the secretive Hamas elections. "We see Hamas continuing to invest all of its resources not just in preparing for war with Israel, but also in educating the children of Gaza to want to destroy Israel".

Until 15 years ago, Haniyeh was the office head, representative and even spokesman of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of the Hamas terror group who was eliminated, in public. Abbas dismissed Haniyeh in June 2007, after the Hamas takeover of Gaza. Although both Egypt and Israel have operated against these tunnels the Israeli army says Hamas continues to build new tunnels as well as to stockpile weapons for a future clash with Israel.

Netanyahu finished the video by picking up a copy of the Hamas document.

Al-Qassam fighters also captured an Israeli soldier in 2006 and swapped him in 2011 for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

An influential military figure, he represents for some the hardest line within the Islamist movement.

The Israeli army appeared on Saturday to be urging Haniya not to seek a new confrontation.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has outrightly rejected Hamas softening its stance against his country by symbolically tossing the Palestinian Islamist group's recently published policy paper into the bin.

Gaza resident Rani Abu Samra said he hoped Haniyeh's election could bridge gaps with Fatah and mark "a new beginning for a real reconciliation on the internal Palestinian level".




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