Haniya, head of Hamas since 2017, was re-elected for a four-year term following internal elections without opposition by party members.
Ismail Haniya has been re-elected as head of the Palestinian group Hamas, officials said, tightening his control over the organization that rules the besieged Gaza Strip.
Haniya, Hamas leader since 2017, controls the group’s political activities in Gaza, the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the diaspora largely from outside Gaza, dividing his time between Turkey and Qatar for two years. He didn’t say if he would come back.
He led Hamas in an 11-day conflict with Israel in May, in which more than 250 people were killed in Gaza and 13 in Israel. An Egyptian-sponsored ceasefire has largely been maintained since.
“Brother Ismail Haniya has been re-elected head of the movement’s political bureau for the second time,” a Palestinian official told Reuters news agency on Sunday following an internal election organized by party members. He won without opposition. His mandate will last four years.
Haniya, 58, was the right-hand man of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza before the leader of the armed group in a wheelchair was assassinated in 2004 in an Israeli air strike.
Haniya led Hamas’ entry into politics in 2006, when it was the surprise winner of the Palestinian parliamentary elections, defeating a divided Fatah party led by President Mahmoud Abbas.
He became prime minister shortly after the victory in January 2006, but Hamas – which is considered a “terrorist organization” by the United States, Israel and the European Union – has been shunned by the international community.
After a brief civil war, Hamas seized Gaza from the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, which limited autonomy in the West Bank, in 2007. Israel has led a blockade of Gaza since then, citing threats from Hamas.
Haniya’s victory crowned internal elections which also saw the group’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, win a second term in March.
Further votes were delayed by the rise in violence in May.
Hamas is an Islamic movement that has faced four major Israeli military assaults since its takeover of Gaza in 2007, most recently in May, and many smaller battles over the years.
Repeated fighting, combined with an Egyptian-Israeli blockade, has decimated Gaza’s economy, with unemployment hovering around 50%.