Hamas official: Haniyeh is top choice for PM

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February 16, 2006 20:11

Ismail Haniyeh, a senior Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, is the group's choice for prime minister, a Hamas official said Thursday. The formal announcement will not be made before the new Hamas-dominated Palestinian parliament is sworn in on Saturday, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss personnel choices with reporters. Haniyeh, 46, is seen as a leader of the more pragmatic wing of Hamas. Born in Gaza's Shati refugee camp, Haniyeh graduated from Gaza City's Islamic University in 1987 with a degree in Arabic literature and became a close associate of Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin. Haniyeh was expelled by Israel to south Lebanon in 1992, returned to Gaza a year later and became the dean of the Islamic University. In 1998, he took charge of Yassin's office. A pragmatist, he served as a liaison between Hamas and Palestinian Authority, established in 1994. He rose to prominence after Israel's assassinations in 2004 of Yassin and Yassin's successor, Abdel Aziz Rantisi. He has been a member of the political leadership of Hamas since the 1990s.


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