The Islamic Hamas movement has elected an ex-prisoner as the top leader of the Gaza Strip, al-Jazeera reported on Monday.
Yehya al-Sinwar, who spent 22 years in Israeli jails, was released in October 2011 in an Egyptian-brokered swap deal.
The al-Jazeera report said that Sinwar was elected as the chief of the movement in Gaza, and Khalil el-Hayya as his deputy, in secret balloting held in Gaza, the West Bank, prisons, and among the Diaspora.
Sinwar, who was born in the refugee camp of Khan Younis in 1961, is considered a Hamas strongman.
Hamas leaders and the movement’s spokesmen in Gaza both declined to publicly comment on the report, but sources close to Hamas, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Xinhua that 15 Hamas leaders were elected to the leading council for the Gaza Strip.
Mahmoud al-Zahar, Fathi Hammad, Salah el-Bardaweel and Marwan Eiss were also elected as members in the council of the enclave’s leadership, according to the sources.
The sources declined to disclose the name of the new Hamas chief or his deputies, but said the Shoura Council in the four different areas — Gaza, the West Bank, prisons, and the Diaspora — has held secret elections for two weeks.
The Shoura Council is the parliament of the Hamas movement, but the number of the council’s members is available.
Shoura Council members usually elect the politburo of the movement, which consists of the chief and his deputies.
In recent months, there were increasing signs of growing influence of Sinwar.
Sinwar was released six years ago after spending 22 years in Israeli jails, in the mega prisoner exchange for the release of Israeli army Corp. Gilad Shalit.
After his release, Sinwar has gradually become the point of connection between the military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, where his brother Mohammed is one of the most influential leaders, and the political wing.
Ibrahim al-Madhoun, a Gaza-based political analyst close to Hamas, said it is natural that the Hamas movement elect a new leadership.
“It is natural to pump new blood into the leadership,” he said. Enditem