Yahya Sinwar Elected Hamas' Gaza Chief

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh shakes hands with Qatar's Ambassador to the Palestinian Authority Mohammed Al Emadi during the ceremony of the second phase of the Sheikh Hamad Town in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza strip

Gaza City - Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas elected a hardline member of its armed wing as its new Gaza head on Monday, Hamas officials said.

Sinwar will be a key decision-maker for Hamas and a member of the executive leadership that draws up policies, including towards Israel.

Dr. Kobi Michael, a senior research fellow at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies, said Sinwar "represents the most radical and extreme line of Hamas".

He founded Hamas' military wing, Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, in the 1980s.

Sinwar spent 22 years in Israeli after being sentenced to life in 1989 for murdering Palestinian collaborators with Israel. "It also sends another message that national reconciliation may become more hard".


Hamas has not yet commented officially but has said that only in April - after parallel elections are held in Israeli prisons in the West Bank, among the leaders overseas and among the Shura Council, which includes its religious leaders - will the results be announced.

Khalil al-Haya, another political hard-liner, was elected as Sinwar's deputy.

In 2011, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to release Sinwar, along with about 1,000 other prisoners, in exchange for Gilad Schalit, an Israeli soldier who had been captured by Hamas five years earlier in a cross-border raid.

The Israeli military confirmed the round of strikes saying it hit three Hamas positions.

He will succeed Ismail Haniya, who is seen by many observers as the most likely successor to Hamas's current exiled leader Khaled Meshaal.

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