Hamas has named one of its most hardline figures as its new leader in the Gaza Strip, a move analysts say is a sign of the growing influence of the group’s military wing.
Yehiya Sinwar was released from an Israeli jail in October 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas.
He had been serving a life sentence for the murder of Palestinians suspected of collaboration with Israel, and was accused of overseeing the torture and killing of a fellow Hamas commander in Gaza last year.
During his final years in prison, he was the leader of the hundreds of Hamas prisoners held by Israel.
Hamas is sworn to Israel’s destruction and has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings, shootings and other attacks.
It is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and the European Union.
New leader a founder of Hamas’ military wing
Sinwar, who is in his mid-50s, comes from the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis and was a founder of Hamas’ military wing in the 1980s.
Analysts say his election indicates the growing power of the military wing at the expense of Hamas’ political wing in Gaza.
The military wing, which controls thousands of fighters and a vast arsenal of rockets, has battled Israel in three wars since Hamas seized control of Gaza a decade ago.
Sinwar replaces Ismail Haniyeh, who served as the prime minister of the Hamas government following the 2007 takeover of Gaza.
Hamas hardliner? They all are. Intent on annihilation of Israel & inflicting untold death & suffering on own people. https://t.co/drutddUksS
— Rɪᴄʜᴀʀᴅ Kᴇᴍᴘ (@COLRICHARDKEMP) February 13, 2017
Haniyeh is now expected to takeover as Hamas’ supreme leader, replacing Khaled Mashaal, who lives in exile.
Hamas started its elections late last year and the entire process is expected to be completed within the next two months, with the naming of a new political bureau.