Yahiya Sinwar, the newly elected Hamas chief in the Gaza Strip, and Ismail Haniyeh, the outgoing Gaza Hamas chief, declared on Monday that Hamas will defend the Palestinian people and cause, in Sinwar’s first public appearance since being elected.“They stressed that Hamas in Palestine and abroad will remain a powerful protector of the Palestinian principles, safeguarding the land and the rights of the Palestinian people and staying committed to its people and Islamic nation in pursuing struggle and resistance in order to achieve freedom,” al-Aksa TV, the official Hamas-run television channel, reported. Sinwar, who spent 22 years in prison for a number of offenses, including killing alleged Palestinian collaborators with Israel, was released from prison in 2011 as a part of the Gilad Schalit prisoner swap and has played a key role in coordinating between Hamas’s military and political wings.“The two leaders expressed their pride with the electoral process in Hamas’s ranks [in the Gaza Strip], which ended successfully and reinforced the democratic and consultative process in the movement’s institutions,” al-Aksa TV reported. While Hamas has completed its leadership elections in Gaza, it has yet to complete them for leadership in the West Bank or in the Palestinian diaspora. Following the completion of elections in the diaspora, Hamas is expected announce a new chairman of the Hamas politburo, the movement’s primary policy-making body.Haniyeh and Sinwar discussed arrangements for the transition of power without revealing any of the details, according to al-Aksa TV.Experts hold that Sinwar’s election may spell a war between Hamas and Israel sooner than expected, citing the Hamas leader’s military background. Meanwhile, Hamas has said that its current policies will remain in place, regardless of changes in its leadership.