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Yahya Sinwar elected as new head of Hamas politburo in Gaza

Feb. 13, 2017 7:29 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 14, 2017 2:28 P.M.)
Ismail Haniyeh, left, and Yahya Sinwar.
GAZA (Ma’an) -- The Hamas movement elected Yahya Sinwar as the new head of its politburo in Gaza to replace Ismail Haniyeh on Monday.

Khalil al-Hayya was meanwhile elected to serve as the deputy head of Hamas’ politburo during the party’s internal elections.

Political pundit Ibrahim al-Madhoun told Ma’an that it was normal to inject “new blood” in Hamas’ ruling class, and that the change in leadership would affect the movement’s policies, particularly regarding reconciliation with rival party Fatah and diplomatic relations with countries such as Iran, Turkey, and Egypt.

“This new orientation will open deeper relations with Egypt and will provide more clarity and flexibility on many issues,” al-Madhoun asserted, adding that the fate of relations between Hamas and Israel also rested on Sinwar’s shoulders.

According to the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, Sinwar was born on Oct. 29, 1962 in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.

He first got involved with Hamas during his studies at the Islamic University of Gaza, establishing the Islamic Bloc -- which represents the party in student elections -- there.

Al-Qassam also credited Sinwar with founding the Majd “security network,” which focused on finding and targeting alleged collaborators with Israel in the Gaza Strip.

Sinwar was detained by Israel during the First Intifada and sentenced to a total of 451 years in prison, although he was released in 2011 as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap.

Israeli news outlets reacted to Sinwar’s nomination by calling him a “radical,” “ruthless,” and “hawkish” hardliner within Hamas.

Haniyeh had served as the head of Hamas’ politburo in Gaza since 2012, and has meanwhile been tipped to replace Khalid Meshaal as chairman of the party.
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