The leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal plans to step down from his position as soon as a successor is appointed, according to reports.
Meshaal has been the recognised overall leader of Hamas since 1996, although he has always ruled from afar, formerly from the Syrian capital Damascus and more recently from Qatar.
Reports of Meshaal’s intentions to resign first emerged several months ago. The AP news agency reports today that Meshaal informed a recent meeting of Hamas leaders in Cairo that he would not seek re-election to his position. Meshaal’s deputy, Moussa Abu Marzouk confirmed the reports of the planned resignation.
Under Meshaal’s leadership, Hamas has carried out numerous suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. It remains dedicated to the destruction of Israel, as detailed in its charter, and is categorised as a terrorist organisation by the European Union and United States. Following victory in Palestinian legislative elections in 2006, Hamas ended a short-lived power-sharing arrangement with the Fatah faction of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, violently seizing control of the Gaza Strip, which has remained under Hamas rule ever since.
However, Meshaal’s position within the movement has been weakening in a lengthy process of internal elections over the past few months. There have been disagreements between himself and Hamas leaders in Gaza, including Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. The Gaza leadership has been reluctant to agree to Meshaal’s willingness to reconcile with Fatah and create a unity government. Meshaal’s departure is likely to reduce the chances of reconciliation between the divided Palestinian factions.