Hamas leader: Haniyeh to return to Gaza after Qatar stint

Speculation has become rife that Haniyeh will replace Meshaal as Hamas’s top leader and permanently relocate to the Qatari capital.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh will return to the Gaza Strip in the near future after spending more than two months with politburo chairman Khaled Mashaal in Qatar, Bassem Naim, a top Hamas leader said on Monday.
“He will return to the Gaza Strip next month,” Basem Naim, former health minister in Gaza’s Hamas-run government told the Jordanian newspaper al-Ghad. “The decision has been made.”
When Haniyeh left the Gaza Strip with his family in September to participate in the haj, a pilgrimage to Mecca, and visit Mashaal in Doha, speculation that Haniyeh will replace Mashaal as Hamas’s top leader and permanently relocate to the Qatari capital became rife.
The top Hamas leader traditionally lives outside the Gaza Strip to be able to avoid restrictions on movement in and out of the small coastal enclave.
Mashaal announced in September that he will not seek another term as politburo chairman in the upcoming internal Hamas elections.
Hamas is expected to hold internal elections within the next year, but due to the group’s secrecy, the exact dates are unknown.
“The timing of Haniyeh’s return depends on making the relevant arrangements with the Rafah Crossing, the land crossing between the Egypt and [Gaza], and internal matters to the movement,” Naim added, clarifying that “Haniyeh left for a fixed period of time and has no intention to leave [Gaza] or reside outside of it.”
Mkhaimar Abusada, a professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in the Gaza Strip, told The Jerusalem Post that there are two possible explanations for Haniyeh’s expected return to Gaza.
“If the report is accurate, it means either Haniyeh will not be running for the chairmanship of the Hamas politburo to make room for Musa Abu Marzouk or Hamas has decided to extend Khaled Mashaal’s chairmanship for another term because of the chaos happening in the Arab world and the ongoing stalemate in Palestinian politics,” Abusada said.
Musa Abu Marzouk, the deputy chairman of the politburo, is one of the many names that analysts have said will be competing for the top Hamas post.
Khaled Mashaal has served as politburo chairman since 1996, managing Hamas’s international relations.