Who is Ismail Haniyeh, the political leader of Hamas who lives in Qatar

Elizabeth Smith

Known as the political leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, for years he has represented the public face of the Palestinian group abroad.

Who is Ismail Haniyeh

Appointed prime minister of the PA in the Gaza Strip following his victory in the elections against Fatah in 2006, the 61-year-old then participated in the internal struggle between Palestinian groups. He rose through the ranks of Hamas to become head of the Hamas Political Bureau from 2017, when he replaced Khaled Meshal.

Initially considered as a member of the more pragmatic and less extremist wing of the group, in reality his political statements immediately went hand in hand with the military wing of Hamas. Proof in the statements after the bloody attack by Hamas in Israel. Then Ismail Haniyeh said: “We are on the verge of achieving a great victory and a clear conquest on the Gaza front”.

After coming to power, like his predecessor, he moved to Qatar. From There, he maintained relations with other Islamic organizations and friendly countries.

Many of his 13 children also live abroad. But have continued to travel back and forth to Gaza like his youngest son Hazem. Who was killed in one of the Israeli raids in the Strip on 17 October, according to Israeli media reports.

The career of the political leader of Hamas

Born in January 1962 to fishermen in the Shati refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, from childhood he was confronted with the difficulties of the long-standing conflict with Israel. A life that led him as a boy to approach Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and then Hamas, while he was a student of Arabic literature at the Islamic University of Gaza of which he later also became principal.

Arrested by the Israelis several times during various Palestinian clashes and protests in the 1980s and 1990s, imprisoned in Israeli prisons and also deported to Lebanon, he finally returned to Gaza. There, he became closer to the so-called pragmatic wing of Hamas.

However, his career in Hamas was not rapid. Before the group’s election victory against Fatah in 2006, the 61-year-old had never held senior roles in the Palestinian group. Haniyeh’s initiatives during the Second Intifada in 2000, however, had brought him to the forefront.

At the time of the elections in the Palestinian territories, Ismail Haniyeh, who had now become the right-hand man of the movement’s founder Ahmed Yassin, found himself as Prime Minister of Palestinian Authority in Gaza, supported by various factions.

He was already in charge of the Strip in 2006 when the Israeli soldier Guilad Shalit was kidnapped, a Hamas undertaking that kept Israel in suspense. And then led to the decision to build fortified barriers to prevent crossings via underground tunnels.

A year later, the Fatah-Hamas clash led to his removal by President Mahmoud Abbas and civil war culminating in Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip. From that moment his rise in Hamas advanced unabated. Haniyeh was the leader of the de facto government in the Gaza Strip until 2017. When he became political head of Hamas. Role in which he was re-elected in 2021.

Haniyeh’s exile in Qatar

Following in the footsteps of his predecessor, a few years after his appointment as head of the Hamas Political Bureau, he took refuge in Doha in Qatar where he has lived in exile since 2019. Since then Haniyeh has divided his time between Qatar and Turkey.

From his refuge he held talks with many representatives of other countries. From Iran to Turkey, via Russia and South Africa but also with representatives of Western countries.

Read also: Tunnels in Gaza: what Hamas’ labyrinth hides and how it works

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