Yahya Sinwar re-elected leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip | Gaza News
Yahya Sinwar has been re-elected to head Hamas’s political wing in the Gaza Strip for a second four-year term, according to officials of the group ruling the besieged enclave.
His re-election on Wednesday comes ahead of the May 22 Palestinian legislative ballot, the first Palestinian vote in 15 years.
Ismail Haniya, head of Hamas’s political bureau and general leader, congratulated Sinwar in a statement.
“The movement’s commitment to [internal] elections every four years confirm our deep faith in the principle of the power of rotation, ”he said. “Today, the Hamas movement has made a milestone in its history and chooses its leaders in Gaza in a way that reflects authenticity and strong legitimacy.”
The Palestinian Maan News Agency quoted a Hamas source as saying that Sinwar won 167 out of 320 votes in the Gaza Shura Council.
Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas official, confirmed that Sinwar repelled a challenge from Nizar Awadallah, one of the founders of Hamas.
For his part, Awadallah stressed his support for Sinwar, saying in a statement, “We stand by his side in all positions to achieve the goals of our project and our movement.”
Sinwar is a former member of the armed wing of the group who spent more than 20 years in an Israeli prison after being convicted of kidnapping and killing two Israeli soldiers. He was released during a prisoner exchange in 2011.
“Sinwar’s victory shows that the man maintains a strong grip on things inside the movement, especially in its vital components such as the military wing,” Gaza political analyst Adnan Abu Amer said.
“The victory will allow Sinwar to pursue his policies, whether inside Gaza or with countries in the region, and to manage the conflict with Israel.”
Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, a year after defeating Fatah, the party of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, in an election. Since then, Israel has imposed a land, air and naval blockade, aided by neighboring Egypt. He also launched three offensives against the Gaza Strip, and there have been many outbreaks.
Hamas remained in power despite the crippling blockade, which devastated Gaza’s infrastructure and economy. Some two million people live in the overcrowded enclave, which now faces a spike in coronavirus infections.
The political wing has closer ties to Qatar and Turkey and tends to be more pragmatic in its dealings with Israel. The military wing has closer ties to Iran and favors a more confrontational approach towards Israel.
After taking office in 2017, Sinwar encouraged mass protests along the fence that separates Gaza from Israel as an alternative to his traditional tool of rocket fire at Israel.
The protests – called the Great March of Return – aimed to draw attention to Gaza’s poor living conditions and ease Israel’s blockade. Since the start of the rallies, hundreds of Palestinians have been killed and more than 30,000 injured by Israeli forces in the fenced areas around Gaza.
The protests failed in 2019 as part of an unofficial truce in which Qatar provided tens of millions of dollars to Hamas for employee salaries, aid projects and cash payments to poor families in return. calm down.
Sinwar was not afraid to push for a tougher confrontation. Last year, he threatened to go into action if Israel did not allow respirators and other medical aids to impoverished territory to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
“If we find this crown[virus] patients in Gaza [are] unable to breathe, we will prevent six million Zionists from breathing and we will get what we want from you by force, ”he said at the time.
Sinwar also helped improve strained relations with neighboring Egypt. He stepped up security along Gaza’s border with northern Sinai to aid the Egyptian military there, where it faced an armed campaign by local ISIS allies (ISIS).
The measures helped calm the situation in northern Sinai and, as a result, Egypt opened a passage for goods such as fuel and tobacco to enter Gaza. It has also increasingly regularly opened the Rafah border post, Gaza’s main gateway to the outside world.