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Haniyeh's election augurs well for Hamas

12 May 2017

Khaled Meshaal, the head of Palestinian Hamas movement, on Saturday said that Ismail Haniya, a former leader of the group in the Gaza Strip, was elected as his successor.

While Haniyeh is expected to continue Meshaal's program of emphasizing improved relations with Arab countries around the region and reaching out to Western countries, his ascent to the organization's top position is seen as rebalancing influence within Hamas toward its Gaza leadership and its Qassem Brigades military wing, and away from its foreign political bureau.

Saeed al-Lawendy, expert with state-run Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies said "Hamas' split from the Brotherhood will lead to lifting its name from the terrorist group list and will beautify the group's image that has been seen as bloody by some world powers".

It stresses however that its struggle is not against Jews due to their religion but against Israel as an occupier.

Some analysts say it seems Abbas is seeking to increase financial pressure on Hamas in the impoverished Gaza Strip, but he risks being blamed for worsening conditions in the enclave of two million people. "This is the real Hamas", said David Keyes, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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During the first Palestinian intifada, Israeli security forces jailed Haniya for three years, then deported him to south Lebanon for several months with around 400 Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders in 1992.

The issue of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel will remain a top priority for Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, the group's newly-elected leader, said Monday.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade for a decade.

Meshaal said that the White House has a "historic opportunity" to arrive at an "equitable solution" for the Palestinian people, adding that America can "stop the darkness that [Palestinians] have been suffering from for many years". He has been portrayed by some as a pragmatist, although during his time as Gaza prime minister from 2006 to 2014, he was involved in Hamas decisions that led to violent confrontations with Israel and large-scale destruction in Gaza.

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

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Since quitting his longtime base in Damascus in 2012, Mashaal has mostly lived in lavish suites in the capital of the oil rich gulf state of Qatar.

Haniyeh's first task will be to cope with escalating tensions between Hamas and Fatah.

Israeli officials had no immediate comment on the election.

The Israeli leader observed that Hamas is speaking out of both sides of its mouth.

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.

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Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S., European Union and Israel.