Ismail Haniyeh was recently elected as Hamas’ new political chief thanks in part to support from the leadership of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the group’s military wing, a source in Hamas has told Breitbart Jerusalem.
According to the source, the military leadership was fully mobilized in favor of Haniyeh and used all of its political weight to get him elected. In the previous election, the al-Qassam Brigades supported the candidacy of Mahmoud al-Zahar, a Hamas strongman in the Gaza Strip. But this time the military leaders shifted in favor of Haniyeh, partially explaining the fact that al-Zahar was elected only to political office in the Gaza Strip and not as head of the general politburo.
Several months ago, Hamas announced that it had elected senior military official Yehya Senwar as its leader in the Gaza Strip. Senwar was among those released from Israeli prison in a deal that saw an exchange of Palestinian prisoners for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Senwar’s election symbolized the rise of the military wing’s influence over Hamas’ political branch and its decision-making process. Haniyeh’s election with the support of the al-Qassam Brigades also gives more power to the military leadership, which is aligned with Iran.
Breitbart Jerusalem reported this week that despite the celebrations Hamas planned for the announcement of its new charter, and despite reports that the charter was adopted by consensus within the organization, senior officials in Hamas, including al-Zahar himself, and some members of its legislative council opposed the new charter, particularly because of a clause that recognizes the creation of a Palestinian state along the so-called 1967 borders.
Opponents of the charter boycotted the ceremony that took place in Doha, the capital of Qatar, and simultaneously via video conference in the Commodore Hotel in the Gaza Strip, according to Hamas sources.
Al-Zahar and the others fear that the new charter harms relations with Iran, ties that were seriously damaged when Hamas declared their opposition to the Syrian government at the beginning of the Syrian civil war, though in the last few months the group has decided to remain neutral on the conflict in Syria.