Palestinian Islamic resistance movement Hamas appoints new leader in Gaza

Yahya al Sinwar

The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, has chosen Yahya Al-Sinwar as its new leader in the Gaza Strip. Al-Sinwar replaces the former Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

The Middle East Monitor reports that Al-Sinwar was born in 1962 in the Khan Younis Refugee Camp in the south of the Gaza Strip.

After attending schools run by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Al-Sinwar enrolled at the Islamic University of Gaza in the early 1980s.

In 1982, whilst still at university, Al-Sinwar was arrested by the Israeli occupation authorities, spending four months in so-called administrative detention with neither charge nor trial.

In 1985, Al-Sinwar was again arrested by the Israeli occupation authorities and spent eight months in prison after being accused of taking part in establishing the Hamas intelligence agency.

Three years later he was arrested again under administrative detention. In 1989, after lengthy investigations into the killing of collaborators who spied for the Israelis against the Palestinians taking part in the first intifada he was indicted and given four life sentences.

Al-Sinwar was known as a respected Hamas figure during the 23 years he spent inside different Israeli prisons and was elected several times by the Hamas prisoners to represent the movement in the prisoners’ representative body.

During his 23 years in prison, Al-Sinwar’s family was allowed to visit him on just a few occasions.

In 2006, the Hamas military wing — Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades — and fighters from two other groups in Gaza captured an Israeli soldier from his tank while he was on active duty on the south-eastern border of the enclave. After a number of Israeli attempts to free Gilad Shalit failed, Tel Aviv agreed to swap more than 1,000 Palestinians prisoners for him, including senior leaders from all factions.

Yahya Al-Sinwar, whose brother Mohamed remains the senior leader of the brigades in Khan Younis, insisted that the swap could not go ahead without the freedom of his brother.

In July 2016, Al-Sinwar was chosen to be in charge of the Israelis held captive by Al-Qassam Brigades in the Gaza Strip. His responsibilities included taking the lead on any negotiations for their release.

Prominent Hamas officials such as Ismail Haniyeh and Imad Al-Alami were not allowed to stand for re-election on any more occasions, having served their maximum number of terms in office. The new Hamas chief in Gaza has not, as yet, made any public statements. He is known to dislike making media appearances.

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