Monday, February 20, 2006

New Face of Hamas - who is Ismail Haniya

Ismail Haniya (born 1962) (Arabic: إسماعيل هنية) is a senior political leader of Hamas. He is considered to be among the movement's most moderate leaders. He was selected on February 16, 2006 as the new Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority following the Hamas "List of Change and Reform" victory in the Palestinian legislative election of January 25, 2006. Haniya was voted (before the election, by Hamas) to the top of the list of candidates for the movement and was therefore the leading contender for the position of prime minister, succeeding Ahmed Qurei.
Haniya was born in the Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza, in 1962. His parents became refugees after they fled their homes in what is now the city of Ashkelon in Israel during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. In 1987, he graduated from the Islamic University of Gaza with a degree in Arabic literature. In 1989, he was incarcerated for three years by Israeli authorities without charge, and following his release in 1992, he was expelled to Lebanon. A year later, he returned to Gaza and was appointed as Dean of the Islamic University.
After the release from prison in 1997 of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Hamas' spiritual leader, Haniya was appointed to head his office. In September 2003, he was slightly injured on his hand by an Israeli Air Force bomb attack attempting to eliminate the Hamas leadership. His position within Hamas continued to strengthen during the Al-Aqsa Intifada due to his relationship with Yassin, and because of the assassination of much of the Hamas leadership by the Israeli Security Forces. In December 2005, Haniya was elected to head the Hamas list, which in January 2006 won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections.
Israel decided to implement a series of punitive measures against the PA after the Hamas election victory but Haniya dismissed the effect of Israeli financial restrictions on the Palestinian Authority (PA) stating that Hamas would not disarm or recognise Israel. Haniya said that he regretted that Israel had labeled Hamas a terrorist group, adding that "it should have responded differently to the democracy expressed by the Palestinian people". Regarding the withholding of foreign aid, he said: "The West is always using its donations to apply pressure on the Palestinian people."


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