Ismail Haniya has been elected as the new leader of Hamas’s political bureau, according to the Palestinian movement’s news agency.
The announcement on Satuday came just days after Hamas unveiled a more moderate stance towards Israel.
Khaled Meshaal, who preceded Haniya as leader of the movement’s political wing, confirmed the transition of power to Al Jazeera.
Ismail Haniya was born in Gaza in 1962 to parents who fled when Israel was created in 1948.
He was jailed several times by Israel during the first Intifada, or uprising, in the late 1980s – and later deported to Lebanon.
Haniya rose to prominence in 2006, when he led Hamas to a shock election victory over Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority.
He stood down in 2014, after a reconciliation deal between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza.
“I would like to announce that this new council has elected Abu al-Abed, my brother Ismail Haniya, the president of the political bureau of the movement,” Meshaal, who had been in charge of the political wing for the past 10 years, said in a statement.
“The new leadership will announce any other names in the appropriate time. The movement blesses this election which came in a consultative, democratic way that is homogenous with the lists and that shows the unity of the movement.”
Haniya, 54, is expected to remain in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian enclave run by Hamas since 2007, unlike Meshaal who lives in exile in Qarar’s capital, Doha, and has completed the maximum two terms in office.
Osama Hamdan, a senior spokesman for Hamas, told Al Jazeera that the timing of the change was in accordance with Hamas’s internal rules that limits the terms of leaders of its political bureau. “The change is not due to a failure in the leadership,” he said.
Hamdan said he was hopeful that Haniya could “repair and reform the situation” and his election can “help the reconciliation agreement [with Hamas’s main Palestinian rival Fatah, in control of the West Bank] implemented on the ground”, as Haniya resides in Gaza.
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