Hamas Leader Meshaal Re-Elected For New Term
Veteran Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal was re-elected as head of the Islamic terrorist movement after a meeting in Cairo late on Monday.
There had been speculation that Meshaal, 56, who is based in exile, would be forced aside by the movement's leaders in the Gaza Strip, which it has controlled since 2007.
Meshaal himself had said last year that he would not seek a new term. While the Hamas leader was originally based in Damascus, he is now staying mainly in Doha, Qatar.
But a Hamas official said that the party's governing shura council re-elected him for another four years at a meeting in Cairo late on Monday.
"The leaders of Hamas chose Meshaal," the high-ranking official told the AFP news agency via telephone from the Egyptian capital, requesting anonymity.
"The elections take place in total secrecy, but it's widely known that Meshaal's term will be renewed," said another Hamas official, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
Hamas officials were in Cairo on Sunday and Monday for the vote, and to discuss with Egyptian leaders reconciliation with the rival Fatah faction of Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmud Abbas.
Meshaal will be aided by Gaza's Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya, as well as the movement's number two Mussa Abu Marzuq, responsible for the exiled section of Hamas.
Haniya was also in Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials.
Ties between Hamas and Cairo have been tense after Egyptian forces closed down dozens of smuggling tunnels on the Gaza border.
Haniya was seeking to "clear the air" after Egyptian allegations of Hamas involvement in a deadly attack on Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula last year, Hamas sources said.
Abu Marzuq would have been favored for leadership had Meshaal not run for another term.
Developments in the Middle East since the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 "pushed Hamas to choose Meshaal... who has given the movement a national face... and has good relations in the Arab world," a third Hamas official said Monday.
Fatah and Hamas signed an Egypt-mediated reconciliation agreement on April 27, 2011 in Cairo.
But most of its clauses went unheeded and deadlines were constantly postponed.
The two sides responded positively to a proposal by Qatar at an Arab League summit late March for a summit aimed at reconciliation.