Hamas Reelects Politburo Khaled Meshaal

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JERUSALEM, Israel --  At a meeting in Cairo Tuesday, 60 senior Hamas members reelected Khaled Meshaal as the Islamist group's political leader.

Exiled from Jordan over a decade ago, Meshaal, 56, set up headquarters in Damascus until Syria's civil war prompted him to leave. His re-election voids his recent announcement of stepping down from leadership.

A diplomat in Cairo, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that Egypt, Qatar and Turkey helped convince him to continue as the group's political leader.

"They saw Meshaal as a moderate and as an example of a leader who saw the world more comprehensively than other hardliners in the group," he said.

Meshaal, who strongly supports reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, signed an agreement in Doha last year with P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas that has yet to be implemented.

In March 2007, the two rival Palestinian factions formed a unity government, following a Saudi-sponsored reconciliation agreement that produced the Mecca Accords. Three months later, Hamas defeated Palestinian Authority forces in a military coup that left the Islamist group in control of the Gaza Strip.

Since its takeover, Hamas has been implementing Islamist sharia law on the population in Gaza. On Monday, Hamas announced it would no longer allow mixed-gender schools after the age of nine.

The announcement follows implementation of a law passed in February that also disallows "gifts or aid aimed at normalizing [relations] with the Zionist [Israeli] occupation."
Meshaal has maintained ties with Iran, a main source of weapons, training and funding for the group in its battle against Israel.

In 1997, Meshaal survived an assassination attempt by the Israeli Mossad in Jordan.  The botched targeted killing was intended as retribution for terror attacks in Israel the same year.

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