Hamas Picks Pair of Hardline Terrorists to Head Gaza Strip

Hamas has elected a hardliner from its armed wing as its next leader in the Gaza Strip, escalating fears that Israel and the group may be heading towards yet another round of deadly confrontation.

The new Hamas leader was imprisoned by Israel from 1988 until his release as part of a prisoner swap in 2011, when he was exchanged for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who Hamas had captured in 2006.

The sources said Sinwar polled best in the vote that was open only to members of Hamas, including those in Israeli jails.

Sinwar is set to replace Ismail Haniyeh in the election that was last held in 2012.

He spent 22 years incarcerated by Israel after receiving four consecutive life terms for murder before being released in the Shalit trade.

Avi Dichter, chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the Knesset (Israel's parliament), said Sinwar's election to replace Haniyeh showed there was no distinction between Hamas' military and political components.

In 2015, Sinwar's name was added to the USA terrorist blacklist for his role in Hamas-led resistance operations against Israel. "The new "#1" Yehya Sinwar, is in his 50s and was a founder of the Hamas fighting force in the 1980s. The result is due to pressure by Hamas' military wing on the political wing, and the announcement's timing is Iran's way of conveying a message before the Trump-Netanyahu talks.

Sinwar's election also appears to have resolved a geographical conflict between "Gazans" such as Sinwar and "those who live abroad", represented by the likes of Khaled Meshal, the current supreme leader of Hamas, who lives in exile.

  • Leroy Wright