Monday 14 November 2016

Shadowy Hamas official with ties to Iran tapped to lead Gaza

The Hamas terror organization recently appointed a founding member with close ties to Syria and Iran to replace Ismail Haniyeh as the effective political leader in the Gaza Strip, sources said Sunday.

Haniyeh, who has been in charge of Hamas’s political activity in the enclave, left in early September for a series of visits to Arab and Muslim states, apparently aimed at paving his way to replace Khaled Mashaal as head of Hamas’s political bureau in Qatar.

Mashaal has said he will not run in the next leadership elections, scheduled to take place by the end of the year.

Haniyeh’s replacement, Imad al Alami, 60, was born in Gaza, but only returned there a few years ago.

He lived for some time in Tehran, then moved to Damascus in 2008. He returned to Gaza after being the last Hamas leader to leave the Syrian capital; relations with Syrian leader Bashar Assad had soured at the start of the uprising there.

Al Alami has so far avoided the media spotlight. He does not take part in press conferences and uses neither Facebook nor Twitter.

Nor does he visit mourners’ tents as his Hamas colleagues do. In recent months, he has taken part in only one public event.

Amid shifting political sands in the Middle East, Hamas has in recent years walked a tightrope in attempting to maintain support from both Gulf states like Qatar and their Shiite rivals in Iran, Syria and elsewhere.

Haniyeh, who has been based in the Qatari capital Doha since leaving Gaza, along with Mashaal recently met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas there. Haniyeh’s participation in that meeting is a further sign that he is on the way to becoming Hamas’s top boss.

It is his continued absence from Gaza and his relocation abroad that has prompted Hamas to appoint al Alami as a temporary replacement until official leadership elections are held in the Strip in the coming months.

Al Alami suffered serious leg injuries during the Israel-Gaza war in the summer of 2014, in circumstances that are not totally clear.


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