Ex-Gaza chief Haniya elected leader of Hamas

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Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) – Hamas’s former chief in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, has been elected overall head of the Palestinian Islamist group, succeeding Khaled Meshaal, its official media announced Saturday.

Haniya, seen as a pragmatist within the movement, is expected to remain in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian enclave run by Hamas since 2007, unlike Meshaal who lives in exile in Doha and has completed the maximum two terms in office.

“The Hamas Shura Council on Saturday elected Ismail Haniya as head of the movement’s political bureau,” the Hamas media said.

The 54-year-old with a salt-and-pepper takes charge of Hamas as it seeks to ease its international isolation while not marginalising hardliners within the movement.

On Monday, it unveiled a new policy document easing its stance on Israel after having long called for its destruction.

The document notably accepts the idea of a Palestinian state in territories occupied by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967.

It also says its struggle is not against Jews because of their religion but against Israel as an occupier.

However, Hamas officials said the document in no way amounts to recognition of Israel as demanded by the international community.

    <figure><figcaption>(FILES) This file photo taken on August 27, 2014 shows Hamas's newly-elected leader  Ismail Haniya (C) waving to a crowd during a rally in Gaza City
        <span>Copyright AFP/File MOHAMMED ABED</span>
      </figcaption></figure>