Gaza - Former Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal was elected to be head of the Palestinian Islamist group's office in the diaspora, with veteran Hamas figure Mousa Abu Marzuq as his deputy, a spokesman said on Monday.
Meshaal, 64, lives in exile in Qatar and survived an assassination bid in 1997 when agents from Israel’s secret service Mossad posing as Canadian tourists injected him with a mysterious poison in Jordan.
Jordan arrested two of the attackers and the late King Hussein demanded Israel hand over an antidote if it wanted its agents back, with the Jewish state complying with the demand.
Hamas recently launched internal elections that have so far led to the re-election last month of Yahya Sinwar as head of its political wing in Gaza, the impoverished enclave of two million Palestinians.
A statement from Hamas said Meshaal, a 64-year-old who led Hamas between 1996 to 2017, was elected “head of the movement’s foreign political bureau”.
The leadership of Hamas was due to hold internal elections for its general head in the coming months.
Incumbent Ismail Haniyeh, who is also now based in Qatar, is expected to run against his deputy Jamal al-Aruri.
Palestinian analyst Akram Atallah said it is unlikely the election of Meshaal would affect foreign alliances of Hamas as Meshaal agrees with Ismail Haniyeh on the movement’s regional and international stances.
“Regarding the policies of Hamas towards Israel, there are no moderates or hardliners. There is full agreement in this regard” said Atallah.
Meshaal’s election comes ahead of legislative polls on May 22 and a presidential election on July 31, the first Palestinian elections in 15 years.
Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008.