Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, has officially appointed its prime minister Ismail Haniya as a deputy head of the movement, a senior member told AFP on Thursday.
The Gaza premier was “officially chosen at a leadership meeting in Cairo,” said the official, who requested anonymity.
Hamas re-elected its chief Khaled Meshaal at the meeting in the Egyptian capital on Monday night and also selected the rest of the movement’s political bureau, according to the official.
Haniya thus “became the first Hamas leader based inside (the Palestinian territories) to become deputy head,” the source said.
Meshaal has been based in exile since he became head of the movement in 2004. Following speculation that he would be forced aside by the movement’s powerful Gaza leadership, he himself said last year that he would not seek a new term.
But after the regional turmoil sparked by the Arab Spring, he came to be seen as best-placed to guide the Islamist movement through the rapidly changing environment because of his extensive contacts in the Arab world, another Hamas official said.
Hamas members told AFP after the vote that the Shura Council had decided to appoint two deputies to work under Meshaal: Haniya, responsible for issues within the Palestinian territories, and Mussa Abu Marzuq to handle all external issues.
Abu Marzuq has been based in Cairo since the Hamas exiled leadership left its Damascus headquarters last year, while Meshaal has moved to Qatar.