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.
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."


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

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs