Hamas has selected a new leader, considered to be a hardliner, to head the group’s political office in Gaza.
Yahya Sinwar, 55, an integral actor in the Hamas military wing also known as Abu Ibrahim, came to the fore in an internal process. His victory is seen as a changing of the guard at the top of the organisation, and an achievement for its hawkish military faction.
On his victory, Sinwar said: “The political wing lost the elections because they failed in running Gaza on the economic and social levels.”
Sinwar believes in a close relationship with Iran. He also chose to build a connection with Sinai Province, the Sinai faction of ISIS, and fostered Hamas’s military wing at the expense of domestic and social policy in the Gaza Strip.
He is thought to have little regard for the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah, but despite his hardline politics he does have a close relationship with former PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
Sinwar’s career in the terror group started by establishing its Al-Majd terror intelligence wing, whose main job was seeking out and executing those Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel. He was consequently given four life sentences, and is suspected of further murders since his release.
In total, he spent 22 years in an Israeli prison before becoming the most senior figure released under the deal for the return of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. He used the celebration of his release to call for more kidnappings of Israel soldiers.
Sinwar’s younger brother, Mohammed, is the commander of the Khan Yunis Brigade in the military wing and was one of the architects of the Gilad Shalit kidnapping.
The Times of Israel reported that Sanwar was added to the US terrorism blacklist in September 2015, alongside two other members of Hamas’ military wing, the Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades. Most of those elected with him reflect the same hardline positions within Hamas.
Sinwar usually refrains from public appearances, shying away from the media. In contrast to the other Hamas leaders, he does not attend Hamas ceremonies and appears unafraid to regard as equals those such as Mohammed Deif, who have almost mythical status in Hamas. Both men began their path in Hamas at the same time.