DAMASCUS (AFP) – Exiled Hamas supremo Khaled Meshaal has been re-elected head of the Palestinian Islamist movement’s politburo, according to a statement from the group in Damascus.
Mahmud Zahar and Khalil al-Hayya, both senior leaders of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, were also elected members of the politburo in an internal vote, the group’s top decision-making body, it said in a statement on Sunday.
Meshaal, who is one of Israel’s most wanted men, lives in exile in Damascus. He was born in May 1956 in a West Bank village but has lived most of his life outside the Palestinian territorities.
Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 when it drove out forces loyal to the secular Fatah party of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, further exacerbating a long-running feud.
The two rival factions have been holding talks in Cairo aimed at forming a unity government but have so far failed to reach any agreement and negotiations have been adjourned until May 16.
The Hamas statement did not disclose the identities of the politburo’s members in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Abbas has his power base. Both groups have complained about tit-for-tat arrests of their members by the rival factions.
Meshaal became the leader of Hamas, which is branded a terror group by Israel and the West, after Israel assassinated the group’s spiritual leader and founder Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and his successor Abdel Aziz Rantissi in 2004.
Israel failed in a bid to assassinate Meshaal in 1997 in Jordan.