Ramallah, London-The Hamas Movement is seeking to elect senior leader Ismail Haniyeh to lead the political bureau, replacing Khaled Mashaal, in the elections expected at the end of this year, informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.
According to the sources, Haniyeh, who lives in the Gaza Strip, is looking to settle soon with members of his family in the Qatari capital, Doha, as a sign of his preparation to assume power.
A candidate running for the presidency of the movement’s political bureau should be outside the Gaza Strip to assume power. Haniyeh was elected vice-president of Hamas political bureau during the last elections held secretly by the movement in Egypt in 2012.
Mashaal’s term as a chairman of the political bureau has already ended. He is not allowed to run for a third term after he was elected Hamas chairman for two consecutive terms.
An informed source at the movement said: “There is almost an agreement inside the leadership of the political bureau that the two expected candidates running for the presidency of Hamas would withdraw and therefore, allow Haniyeh to chair the movement.”
However, the source warned that such a plan could fail in case Haniyeh fails to leave the Gaza Strip soon. Haniyeh was expected to leave Gaza in the past few days to attend the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia from where he would then leave for Qatar, where he would settle.
The movement’s internal elections are expected next November and December as a preparation for the election of the political bureau.
Last month, internal elections were held in some regions, and will continue during this year’s last two months to involve all Hamas institutions and political and military bodies.
Several officials from the movement were extensively working with Egyptian leaders and other Arab officials to secure the exit of Haniyeh from the Gaza Strip along a delegation of pilgrims to perform the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.
Haniyeh was expected to leave the strip to Egypt, and then to Saudi Arabia last Saturday or Sunday.
On Sunday, there were leaked reports saying he had already left Gaza.
However, sources close to Haniyeh said he did not leave. “Efforts are currently conducted in this regard,” the source said.
It is still unknown whether Haniyeh would be allowed to leave the Strip on Monday through the Rafah border crossing.
Egyptian authorities opened the crossing between the country’s North Sinai province and the Gaza Strip for a few days to accommodate Palestinian pilgrims. However, the crossing will be closed Monday.
Following the victory of the Hamas Movement during the elections, Haniyeh had chaired the Palestinian government until he was elected as vice-president to Mashaal.