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

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.