Mashaal to step down as Hamas leader next year

Says Gaza has double the weapons it had during 2014 war.

Khaled Mashaal (photo credit: REUTERS)
Khaled Mashaal
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal confirmed reports on Saturday that he will not run for reelection in the contest expected to take place in 2017.
“Khaled Mashaal will be a former chief of the Hamas politburo next year,” Mashaal told a seminar on “The Transformation of Islamic Movements,” hosted by the Al Jazeera Center for Studies.
Mashaal said he believes Hamas needs to permit its youth to assume leadership roles.
“It is not right for Islamic and non-Islamic movements to allow their leaderships to grow old without providing an opportunity for internal vigor and pushing the youth forward to the top of the leadership,” the leader said.
In the past month, multiple reports surfaced that Mashaal, 60, would step down from his current role. He became chief in 1996 when he was residing in Jordan and has cultivated close relationships with regional powers such as Qatar, Turkey and, to some extent, Iran.
The Palestinian press has speculated over a number of possible candidates to replace Mashaal, including former prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, deputy politburo chief Mousa Abu Marzouk and politburo member Imad al-Alami.
During the seminar, Mashaal also said Hamas’s arsenal of weapons has grown several times since Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
“In spite of the siege, what we have today in terms of resistance weapons is several times more than what we had during easier times and what we had two years ago, before the Eaten Straw War [Operation Protective Edge],” Mashaal remarked.
Historically, Hamas has built a large arsenal of homemade Kassam rockets.
Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon told a conference in late 2014 that the IDF destroyed 80% of Hamas’s mortars and rockets in the war. Meanwhile, Israel has restricted items entering the Gaza Strip it believes can be converted into weapons, and Egypt has destroyed smuggling tunnels along its border with the small coastal enclave.
Moreover, Mashaal said Hamas has no intention of recognizing the Quartet principles, which entail recognizing the State of Israel, signed agreements and renouncing violence.
“I told Western delegations, who have not stopped meeting and visiting us, that we have rejected the Quartet principles for 10 years, and we will reject them for another 10 years,” he said, adding, “The day will come that the international community will deal with us according to our conditions, not their conditions.”
Mashaal previously stated in interviews with the international press that Hamas supports the establishment of a Palestinian state on the pre-June 1967 lines, but later retracted his statements.
Ahmad Yousif, a Hamas leader, has suggested that while Mashaal will step down, he likely will continue to play a significant role in the Hamas leadership and, more generally, Palestinian politics.