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Hamas reelects Meshaal as leader, official says

Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal waves to Palestinian students during his visit to the Islamic University in Gaza City in December.
(Mohammed Saber / European Pressphoto Agency)

GAZA CITY — The leadership council of Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza Strip, has reelected Khaled Meshaal to lead the militant organization for the next four years, a senior official with the movement said Monday.

No official announcement was made of Meshaal’s reelection during a secret vote by leaders in Cairo, and the senior official requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter. However, the news was widely reported in the Arabic language media.

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Meshaal, 56, had been expected by many to win despite his comments last year that he had no wish to remain as head of the group. He took over the post in 2004.

The perception among many Palestinians that Hamas got the better of Israel in their clash in November, during which the militant group’s fighters fired rockets at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, led many to predict that Meshaal would ultimately stay in his position. After that eight-day confrontation, Meshaal made his first visit to Gaza in December and received a hero’s welcome.

Seen by many as among the more pragmatic Hamas leaders, Meshaal is popular with movement members in the West Bank and abroad. He lived in Syria for years, fearing assassination by Israel, which deems Hamas to be a terrorist organization. The 2-year-old rebellion against Syrian President Bashar Assad led Meshaal to move his base to Qatar.

Some in Gaza had hoped to replace Meshaal with a new, more hard-line leader, such as Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh or Meshaal’s deputy, Musa abu Marzouk.

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