Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Al Hams/Handout)
Hamas confirmed Tuesday that its Damascus-based leader, Khaled Mashaal, will not
present his candidacy in the next election for chairman of the movement’s
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Mustafa al-Liddawi, a former Hamas official, hailed
Mashaal’s decision as “bold and sincere.” Liddawi, a former Hamas representative
in Lebanon, said Mashaal had decided to pave the way for other members of the
movement to “assume responsibility.”
Mashaal was elected chairman of the
bureau in 1996. The political bureau is the key decision-making body and
the highest authority in Hamas.
The Damascus-based leader’s decision not
to seek reelection came as a surprise to some Hamas officials.
official said Mashaal had apparently decided to step down following sharp
differences with the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip over the movement’s
In recent weeks, Mashaal was quoted as saying he favored
a nonviolent intifada against Israel.
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Over the past year, he met three
times with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as part of efforts to
end the ongoing dispute between the two sides.
PA officials said Mashaal
had told Abbas he supported a temporary halt in terror attacks against
In a number of interviews to Arab media outlets in the past few
weeks, the Hamas leader declared his support for a “popular resistance” against
But while Mashaal was talking about abandoning terrorism, Hamas
leaders in the Gaza Strip announced their movement would continue to stick to
the armed struggle against the Jewish state.
Hamas’s top leaders in the
Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud Zahar, openly challenged Mashaal by
calling for the continuation of armed attacks.
Haniyeh and Zahar are also
opposed to Mashaal’s recent understandings with Abbas on a number of issues,
including holding presidential and parliamentary elections in
Mashaal’s successor will be elected in a secret vote in the coming
weeks, a source close to Hamas said. According to the source, hundreds of Hamas
members in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Israeli prisons and a number of Arab
countries will cast their ballots.
At this stage, it’s not clear who will
However, the source predicted that Haniyeh and Mashaal’s
deputy, Musa Abu Marzouk, would be the leading candidates.
in an article published Tuesday that Mashaal’s decision was a “great lesson for
the Palestinian revolution at the time of the Arab Spring and the popular
revolutions in the Arab world.”
In a separate development, the
newspaper reported Tuesday that Abu Marzouk’s family had
moved from Syria to Egypt.
The paper pointed out that Hamas leaders were
no longer comfortable with living in Syria because of the mass protests against
President Bashar Assad. Mashaal’s family recently moved to Jordan, the paper
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