News / Middle East

Hamas Gives Meshaal Another 4 Years as Leader

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal arrives at the Islamist Ennahda party congress in Tunis,  July, 12, 2012.
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal arrives at the Islamist Ennahda party congress in Tunis, July, 12, 2012.
Reuters
The Islamist Palestinian Hamas group re-elected the relatively pragmatic Khaled Meshaal as its leader on Tuesday despite past criticism of him by hardliners in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

A diplomat in the region said Egypt and Qatar had lobbied strongly on behalf of a reluctant Meshaal before the vote in Cairo by about 60 Hamas leaders who had met through the night.

Khaled Meshaal

  • Has led Hamas since 2004
  • Based in Syria since 2001
  • Accused by Israel of ordering the 2006 abduction of an Israeli soldier
  • Survived a 1997 Israeli assassination attempt
  • Born in 1956 in the West Bank
  • Moved with family to Kuwait in 1967
  • Joined the Muslim Brotherhood at age 15
  •  
Born in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Meshaal, 56, has lived in exile for decades and, like his Hamas comrades, rejects Israel's right to exist. But he played a vital role in indirect, Egyptian-mediated talks between Israel and Hamas to secure a cease-fire that ended an eight-day Gaza war four months ago.

Meshaal drew criticism last year from Hamas's Gaza-based leadership over what some officials saw as a personal initiative to heal a rift with Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. His rival Fatah party lost control of the Israeli-blockaded enclave to Hamas in a brief civil war in 2007.

In a statement announcing Meshaal's re-election, Hamas said its highest decision-making body, the Shoura Council, had "renewed its trust in the political office headed by brother Khaled Meshaal."

The diplomat in the region, who asked not to be identified,said Egypt's Islamist leadership and the wealthy Gulf emirate of Qatar had backed Meshaal, who had earlier promised to step down.

"They saw Meshaal as a moderate and an example of a leader
who saw the world more comprehensively than other [Gaza-based] hardliners in the group," said the diplomat.

Meshaal left Damascus, where Hamas had a headquarters, about a year ago after the Sunni Islamist militant movement broke with President Bashar al-Assad over the civil war in Syria.

In December, Meshaal travelled from Egypt to make his first visit to Gaza, where he told a rally he would never recognize Israel and pledged to ``free the land of Palestine inch by inch."

Pariah

Once treated as a pariah by many U.S.-allied Arab leaders,
Hamas has seen its standing in the region rise on the back of Arab uprisings that have ushered in more sympathetic Islamist governments in Egypt and elsewhere.
    
Israel, the United States and most Western governments view Hamas as a terrorist group for its refusal to recognize the Jewish state or to renounce violence that included suicide bombings in a Palestinian uprising a decade ago.

"I do not say Europe is going to open up to Hamas tomorrow," said the diplomat. But he added that a "real engagement with the West" was possible if Meshaal persuaded Islamist colleagues to change their policies.

Palestinian political analyst Hani al-Masri said Meshaal's re-election signaled that Hamas was showing a desire for more moderation in order to build bridges with the West, but "it did not mean that Meshaal was a man who raises a white flag."

Meshaal burnished his credentials within Hamas after surviving an Israeli assassination attempt in Jordan in 1997. He succeeded the group's founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, in 2004 after Israel assassinated the wheelchair-bound cleric.

Hamas, which has close links to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, was founded in 1988 soon after Palestinians launched an uprising against Israel. Yassin was killed during a second revolt.

Despite falling out with Syria, Meshaal has sought to maintain ties with Iran, an Assad ally that supplies weapons to Hamas, including rockets the group has fired at Israeli cities.

Israel has struck repeatedly at militants in Gaza, attacks that have sometimes caused heavy casualties among civilians in the impoverished, densely-populated coastal territory.

Meshaal, who now divides his time between Cairo and Qatar, has tried to overcome his differences with Abbas, who supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

His re-election, according to senior Fatah official Mahmoud al-Aloul, "may boost chances of reconciliation [With Abbas], but that does not mean it would be done, given remaining disputes within Hamas."

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid