Middle East

Haniyeh re-elected as chief of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas

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Palestinian Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh assists Hamas co-founder Ahmed Yassin in taking a phone call in Gaza City, Palestinian Territories June 13, 2003. Picture taken June 13, 2003. REUTERS/Stephen Farrell/Files

GAZA, Aug 1 (Reuters) - Ismail Haniyeh has been re-elected as leader of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, officials said on Sunday, cementing his control of the organization which rules the Gaza Strip and has fought multiple violent conflicts with Israel.

Haniyeh, Hamas chief since 2017, has controlled the group's political activities in Gaza, the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the diaspora largely from outside Gaza, splitting his time between Turkey and Qatar for the past two years.

He directed Hamas in an 11-day conflict with Israel in May that left over 250 in Gaza and 13 in Israel dead. An Egyptian-mediated ceasefire has mostly held since.

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

Aged 58, Haniyeh was the right-hand man to Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza, before the wheelchair-bound cleric was assassinated in 2004.

Haniyeh led Hamas' entry into politics in 2006, when they were surprise victors in Palestinian parliamentary elections, defeating a divided Fatah party led by President Mahmoud Abbas.

He became prime minister shortly after the January 2006 victory, but Hamas - which is deemed a terrorist organisation by the United States, Israel and the European Union - was shunned by the international community.

Following a brief civil war, Hamas 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 that also saw the group's Gaza chief, Yehya Al-Sinwar, win a second term in March. read more

Further votes were delayed by May's upsurge in violence.

Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi Editing by Rami Ayyub and Toby Chopra

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