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Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to step down

Published time: September 23, 2012 22:33
Edited time: September 24, 2012 10:22
Exiled Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal. (AFP Photo/Ho/Hamas)

Exiled Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal. (AFP Photo/Ho/Hamas)

A senior Hamas official has confirmed that the group’s leader, Khaled Mashaal, will not be seeking re-election. Mashaal will, however, remain a member of the Islamist party.

Mashaal, who has led Hamas from various Arab capitals since 1996, told a meeting of senior officials in Cairo last week that he had no desire to remain its chief and that his decision not to run in the election was final, a diplomatic source told the Jerusalem Post earlier Sunday.

"When Mashaal said he was not seeking re-election, a message was sent to him from the movement’s leaders, unanimously asking him to change his mind," senior Hamas official Salal Bardawil told Ma'an news agency.

The diplomatic source told the Jerusalem Post that Mashaal was tired of policy changes from the group’s leadership.

Mashaal has grown impatient with some of his Gaza officials who recently tried to undermine decisions he took on behalf of the group,” the source said.

The leader angered Hamas’ leadership earlier this year when he agreed that its main rival, the Fatah movement, could lead any future unity government.

Mashaal has made no public comment on his future leadership or on the Cairo meeting.

­The announcement comes after reports earlier this year that Mashaal will not seek re-election.

Khaled Mahaal has been the head of Hamas's political bureau since 1996, after his predecessor, Mousa Abu Marzook, was arrested in the United States and imprisoned there for two years on suspicion of terrorism.

Mashaal was known as a vocal critic of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, often refusing to follow directives issued by the PA regarding ceasefires with Israel.

In 1997, the Hamas leader became the target of an assassination attempt by the Israeli intelligence service. The Mossad agents posing as Canadian tourists injected him with poison on a street in Amman, Jordan. They were later captured by Jordanian authorities. Jordanian King Hussein demanded that Israel hand over the antidote to save Mashaal, who was in a coma. Under growing political pressure and with US President Bill Clinton’s intervention, Israel did so, and its agents were released.

In 1999, Mashaal was expelled from Jordan, with authorities accusing him of illegal activities. He later moved to Damascus, where he stayed until the Syrian civil war intensified, forcing him to move to Qatar.

The date of the election of the next Hamas leader remains secret. Ismail Haniyeh, the group's leader in the Gaza Strip, and Moussa Abu Marzouk, who headed Hamas in the early 1990s, were the top candidates to replace Mashaal, a source told Reuters.

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