Ismail Haniyeh re-elected as Hamas leader without opposition

The head of the group since 2017, Haniyeh has ruled largely from Turkey and Qatar

Ismail Haniyeh has been re-elected as the leader of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, officials said on Sunday.

The win will cement his control of the organisation, which rules the Gaza Strip and has fought several violent conflicts with Israel.

No known opponent of Haniyeh had stood against him.

Hamas chief since 2017, he has controlled the group’s political activities in Gaza, the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the diaspora largely from a distance, dividing his time between Turkey and Qatar for the past two years.

In May, he directed Hamas in the 11-day conflict with Israel that killed more than 250 in Gaza and 13 in Israel. An Egypt-mediated ceasefire has mostly held since.

He was recently involved in talks aimed at bolstering the Cairo-brokered ceasefire that ended the latest deadly violence.

“Brother Ismail Haniyeh was re-elected as the head of the movement’s political office for a second time,” one Palestinian official told Reuters after an internal election by party members. His term will last four years.

Aged 58, Haniyeh is considered a pragmatist. He was the right-hand man to Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin in Gaza, before the cleric was assassinated in 2004.

Haniyeh led Hamas’ entry into politics in January 2006. They were the surprise victors in the Palestinian parliamentary elections, defeating Fatah, the divided party led by President Mahmoud Abbas.

Haniyeh became prime minister shortly afterwards, but Hamas – which is deemed a terrorist organisation by the US, Israel and the EU – was shunned by the international community.

After a brief civil war, the group seized Gaza from the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, which has limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, in 2007. Israel has led a blockade of Gaza since then, citing threats from Hamas.

Haniyeh’s victory caps internal elections in which the group’s Gaza chief, Yahya Sinwar, won a second term in March.

Further votes were delayed by the surge in violence in May.

Updated: August 2nd 2021, 1:28 PM