Palestinian Hamas militants take part in a parade to mark the 11th anniversary of the Israeli assassination of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza city, on March 22, 2015. (Xinhua/Wissam Nassar)

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.

He was born in the Shatti refugee camp in western Gaza City in 1963.

His late father, Abdul Salam Haniya, was a Palestinian refugee and a fisherman, who escaped with his family from a small town near Ashkelon to the Gaza Strip during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, shortly before the birth of the state of Israel.

Abdul Salam Haniya died when Haniya was a small child.

Whilst alive however, he resided in poor living conditions with his family in the Shatti refugee camp.

He got married at 19-years-old and has 14 children.

Haniya was a talented student and a soccer player, earning his school education at United Nations-run schools.

In 1981 he joined the Islamic University and majored in Arabic Literature.

He graduated in 1987, shortly before the first popular Palestinian intifada, or uprising, broke out in December of the same year.

Haniya became involved in political activities at university through the student union, the arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, later the Islamic Hamas movement in December 1987.

At university, Haniya was a member in the student union and chaired it in 1984 and 1985.

At this stage, the first fight broke out between students from Muslim Brotherhood backgrounds and the Fatah Party, established by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Right after graduation, Haniya worked as an Arabic language teacher at the same university he graduated from and was later promoted as dean of the university’s administrative affairs.

During the first Palestinian intifada, Israeli security forces jailed Haniya for three years, then deported him to south Lebanon for several months with around 400 Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders in 1992.

In 1997, he was nominated as personal assistant to the late Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, founder and spiritual leader of the Hamas movement.

The nomination came right after Yassin was released from an Israeli jail as part of a Jordanian-Israeli swap deal, before Israel assassinated Yassin in an airstrike near his home in 2004.

Haniya was one of Yassin’s closest Hamas leaders, and lived with the quadriplegic leader, guiding him in his wheel chair and spending most of his time with him whether feeding and bathing him or reading for him.

Haniya, Yassin and two other leaders all survived an Israeli assassination attempt in 2003, when Israeli war jets struck a building in Gaza city in which Yassin and other Hamas leaders were holding a secret meeting.

In January 2006, the Islamic list which Haniya chaired won the parliamentary elections, after which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas nominated him as the Palestinian unity government’s first prime minister.

In February 2007, Haniya and other Hamas leaders signed a historic reconciliation agreement with the Fatah Party.

However, the agreement soon collapsed when Hamas violently seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007. Furthermore, in 2012, Haniya was elected as Hamas’s deputy chief, Khaled Meshaal’s leading movement.

However, when Hamas violently seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, Abbas fired Haniya.

Refusing to quit, Haniya continued as the Gaza Strip’s government premier until June 2014, when another reconciliation agreement was reached, forming a consensus government headed by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.

In 2014 Haniya escaped an assassination attempt during the 50-day widescale Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip, but his deputy Emad Alami lost a leg.

Later, Khaled Meshaal announced that Haniya was elected as the Hamas’s new head in the internal Shura council elections.

The Shura council is Hamas’s main consultative body, primarily responsible for decision-making. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh

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