British-educated woman speaks for Hamas government in Gaza

GAZA Mon Nov 11, 2013 6:57am EST

1 of 3. Isra Al-Modallal, a spokeswoman of the Hamas government in Gaza, prepares herself before heading to the office, at her house in Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip November 10, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

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GAZA (Reuters) - The Islamist Hamas group, long shunned by the West and increasingly isolated in the Middle East, has appointed its first spokeswoman, a 23-year-old who used to live in Britain and speaks with a Yorkshire accent.

Isra Al-Modallal's job is to convey the views of the Hamas government that controls Gaza to the foreign media.

She is not a member of the Islamist group. She wears a traditional headscarf along with a touch of makeup, listens to non-Islamic music and will on occasion shake hands with members of the opposite sex, behavior usually frowned on by Hamas.

Modallal, who was born in Egypt but has Palestinian nationality and lives in Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza, took up her post earlier this month.

She said she planned eventually to return to Britain, where she lived for three years in the northern city of Bradford with her brother, a British national.

"It is a period of my life ... then I am going to complete my (law) study ... in Bradford or Scotland or London University," Modallal told Reuters.

Ehab al-Ghsain, chief spokesman for the Hamas government in Gaza, said he hoped Modallal would develop a good working relationship with Western media.

Modallal said however she would not take calls from Israeli journalists.

Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since a brief Palestinian civil war in 2007, has spurned Western demands to recognize Israel and renounce violence. It is considered a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.

The Sunni Islamist group has also angered its main regional supporter, Shi'ite Iran, by its criticism of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country's civil war.

Hamas's relations with Egypt, Gaza's neighbor, have also worsened since the Egyptian military ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi following protests against his rule.

(Reporting by Nidal Almughrabi; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Andrew Roche)

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