Hamas Gets New Head

The Palestinian movement Hamas elected Ismail Haniyeh as its new leader and chief. Haniyeh replaced Khaled Meshaal, who steps down at the end of his term limit.

Gaza-born Haniyeh, 54, served as Palestinian prime minister after Hamas won a 2006 parliamentary election and he continued to claim the title, despite being officially sacked by Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads Fatah.

Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist organization. It has a social service wing, Dawah, and a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. It has been the de facto governing authority of the Gaza Strip since its takeover of that area in 2007.

During this period it fought several wars with Israel. It is regarded, either in whole or in part, as a terrorist organization by several countries and international organizations, most notably by the United States and the European Union.

Hamas was founded in 1987, soon after the First Intifada broke out, as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which in its Gaza branch had been non-confrontational towards Israel, refrained from resistance, and was hostile to the PLO.

Co-founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin stated in 1987, and the Hamas Charter affirmed in 1988, that Hamas was founded to liberate Palestine, including modern-day Israel, from Israeli occupation and to establish an Islamic state in the area that is now Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.