Hamas says Ismail Haniyeh chosen as Islamic group's leader

Gaza-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was elected chairman of the Hamas Politburo, outgoing Politburo Chairman Khaled Meshaal said on Saturday.

In Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas since 2007, years of Egyptian restrictions, coupled with an Israeli blockade and three wars between Hamas and Israel, have devastated the economy and weakened the Palestinian Islamist group.

In 2013, Haniyeh was elected deputy head of the Hamas political bureau.

The 54-year-old served as Palestinian prime minister after Hamas' victory in the 2006 polls and continued to carry out official responsibilities despite being sacked by Palestinian president and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas dropped its longstanding call for Israel's destruction and severed ties with the Muslim Brotherhood in its policy shakeup announced at its main overseas office in the Qatari capital Doha last week.

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.

It also says its struggle is not against Jews due to their religion but against Israel as an occupier.

"He was one of the leaders who believed that participating in the political system would make the global community open their arms, strengthen the Palestinians, and force Israel to deal with Hamas".

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The decree also exempts Palestinians in Gaza from paying the Value Added Tax (VAT) in an attempt to deprive Hamas from collecting those tax revenues.

Israeli officials had no immediate comment on the election.

The announcement came shortly after Gaza's rulers unveiled a new, seemingly more pragmatic political programme aimed at ending the group's global isolation.

But Al-Ahmed also said Hamas must give up its control of Gaza, something Haniyeh has refused to do.

The Rafah border crossing is Gaza's only access point to the outside world not controlled by Israel.

The Israeli army appeared on Saturday to be urging Haniya not to seek a new confrontation.

"We dissociate from the resistance [groups] that divide Palestine into two states", said Qassem, Iran's Tasnim news agency reported.

Nakhala said the new Hamas policy formally accepting the idea of a state in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 would "lead to deadlock and can only produce half-solutions".

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