Hamas picks new Gaza leader amid bid for more influence

Cairo May 7 Egypt has opened its border crossing with Palestinian Gaza Strip for three days starting Saturday

"Under its new leadership, the movement must continue and intensify its efforts to strengthen internal Palestinian relations ... strengthen the steadfastness of our people, and mobilize Arab, Islamic and global powers to stand by the Palestinian people", said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum in a statement announcing Haniyeh's selection.

Meshaal, who now lives in an exile in the Qatari capital of Doha, has been running the Hamas political wing for the maximum two terms in office.

Ismail Haniya, known as Abu el-Abed, the Islamic Hamas movement's newly elected chief, was a former soccer player and an Arabic language teacher at the Islamic University of Gaza.

"His position also requires him to be moving around and traveling", he added.

Haniya, a father of 13, began his rise to prominence in Hamas as a close associate of the group's founder and spiritual leader, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, who was assassinated by an Israeli airstrike in 2004.

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Until Hamas accepts to give up its control of Gaza, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued on Saturday a decree, which exempts the Gazan population from paying all taxes and fees to official departments and establishments of the Palestinian Authority (PA.). Analysts said that in trying to create a compromise among opposing factions, the new document failed to fully satisfy any of them. The U.S. has long considered the group a terrorist organization because of its attacks against Israel.

Hamas stopped short of recognizing Israel in its policy document, stating there would be no "compromising its rejection of the Zionist entity and (no) relinquishing (of) any Palestinian rights".

In 2006, after Hamas won the legislative elections, Haniyeh was chosen by the movement to form its first government.

"The Hamas Shura Council on Saturday elected Ismail Haniya as head of the movement's political bureau", the Hamas media said. Since 2008, Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza have fought three cross-border wars.

The document, published Monday, labels as "a national consensus" the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state along pre-1967 lines with the return of refugees to their homes in Israel.

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