Tuesday, 23 May, 2017

New Hamas chief makes first public appearance in native Gaza

Saul Franklin | 14 May, 2017, 04:01

Haniyeh succeeds Hamas' longtime exiled leader Khaled Meshaal, and the move comes shortly after Gaza's rulers unveiled a new, seemingly more pragmatic political program aimed at ending the group's worldwide isolation.

Yahya Sinwar, a top commander in Hamas's armed wing, was named the movement's leader in the Gaza Strip in February. "We see Hamas continuing to invest all of its resources not just in preparing for war with Israel, but also in educating the children of Gaza to want to destroy Israel".

"Ismail Haniya is the most appropriate person to promote this document to Arab and global leaders", said Gaza political scientist Mukhaimer Abu Saada.

"The Hamas Shura Council Saturday elected Ismail Haniya as head of the movement's political bureau", the Hamas media said. Israel and Egypt imposed a border blockade on Gaza after the Hamas takeover a decade ago, keeping the territory's borders sealed most of the time.

Hamas controls the Gaza Strip while Fatah, through the Palestinian National Authority, controls the West Bank.

Hamas has run Gaza since 2007 but is considered a terrorist organisation by Israel, the United States and the European Union.

Palestinian officials say 1,500 political prisoners are participating in the strike, while Israeli authorities put the current figure at 860. Hamas leaders have been able to travel overseas from time to time, but only with Egyptian coordination.

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Although it is still unknown if Haniyeh will remain in Gaza or move to Qatar like his predecessor, the newly elected leader made his first public appearance on Monday, visiting a solidarity tent in downtown Gaza City, where about 900 Israeli-held Palestinian prisoners have been on a hunger strike for 22 days to demand better conditions from Israel, according to reports.

The Israeli leader posted a video on Sunday that showed him throwing a Hamas policy paper, which attempted to soften the group's image, into a trash can.

A day later, an unidentified Israel Prisons Service official told Channel 2 television that the food was planted in Barghouti's cell as part of an IPS scheme to break the hunger strike.

The paper offered to drop Hamas' longstanding call for Israel's destruction but maintained that it still rejected the Jewish state's right to exist. This new document claims it now recognizes the border lines of Israel before the 1967 armistice, and that it declares independence from the Muslim Brotherhood.

It stresses however that its struggle is not against Jews due to their religion but against Israel as an occupier.

He also described the Oslo Accords as "not only a fundamental compromise of Palestinian rights to the occupation, but were also a source of major division in the Palestinian arena over both means and objectives, transferring the conflict into the Palestinian domestic scene".

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