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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocidei
X
Elizabeth Lee
August 31, 2015 8:23 PM
Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the end of the civil war in Guatemala. During the conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed in what is known as the Guatemalan genocide. Researchers are now collecting video testimonies of the survivors to preserve the memories of what happened to prevent future genocides. Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the end of the civil war in Guatemala. During the conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed in what is known as the Guatemalan genocide. Researchers are now collecting video testimonies of the survivors to preserve the memories of what happened to prevent future genocides. Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs