Mideast: Hamas leadership shifts to Haniyeh, press

'Moderates' out, Meshaal's 'reconciliation' line defeated

24 April, 17:05

(ANSAmed) - TEL AVIV, APRIL 24 - The leadership of the Palestinian Islamic faction in the Gaza Strip may soon become even more radical, with imminent changes in store. Anonymous sources within Hamas have been reported by the online version of the Israeli Haaretz newspaper as saying that a secret vote for the top positions of the group had taken place a few days ago, appointing as the new leader of the movement Ismail Haniyeh (Gaza's prime minister) in the place of Khaled Meshaal (representative of the diaspora), signalling the defeat of the more pragmatic candidates.

According to these sources, the choice of Haniyeh seals the win for the Gaza nomenklatura, less inclined towards the reconciliation agreements signed by Meshaal over the past few months with the moderate head of the National Palestinian Authority (PNA) Mahmoud Abbas and his recent statements (less aggressive than usual) towards the peace process with Israel.

And with it, that of Hamas's military wing. Within the leadership are such figures as Mohamed Ali Jabari (head of the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigade, the armed faction of Hamas in the Gaza Strip) and other militia heads such as Yehia Sanwar, one of the prime suspects behind the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier Ghilad Shalit.

Also part of this new group is Gaza's ideologist Mahmud Al-Zahar, whose words strongly oppose the reconciliation peace process with Al-Fatah, the more moderate party led by Mahmoud Abbas now present only in the West Bank government after the violent split within the Palestinian front in 2007.

It seems that people have been left out who are generally considered to represent Hamas' moderate side, such as Razi Hamed, Salah Al-Bardawil (one of the reconciliation negotiators) as well as the English-speaking 'diplomat' Ahmed Yusef.