Ismail Haniyeh

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Ismail Haniyeh
إسماعيل هنية
Haniyeh in 2020
Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority
In office
29 March 2006 – 2 June 2014
Disputed from 14 June 2007*
Preceded byAhmed Qurei
Succeeded byRami Hamdallah
Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau
Assumed office
6 May 2017
DeputySaleh al-Arouri[1]
Preceded byKhaled Mashal
Hamas Chief in the Gaza Strip
In office
2 June 2014 – 13 February 2017
LeaderKhaled Mashal
Succeeded byYahya Sinwar
Personal details
Born (1962-01-29) 29 January 1962 (age 62)
Al-Shati refugee camp, Gaza Strip
Political partyHamas
Children13 (3 deceased)
Residence(s)Doha, Qatar
Alma materIslamic University of Gaza
*Haniyeh was dismissed on 14 June 2007 by Abbas, who appointed Fayyad instead. This was deemed illegal by the Legislative Council, which continued to recognise Haniyeh. The Palestinian Authority govern the West Bank while Hamas govern the Gaza Strip. A unity government was formed in 2014.

Ismail Haniyeh[a] (born 29 January 1962) is a Palestinian politician who is seen as the overall political leader of Hamas, the de facto ruling entity of the Gaza Strip.[2] He is the current chairman of Hamas’s political bureau; as of 2023, Haniyeh lives in Qatar.[3]

Haniyeh was born in the Al-Shati refugee camp in the Gaza Strip in 1962. He studied at the Islamic University of Gaza,[4][5] where he first became involved with Hamas, and graduated with a bachelor's degree in Arabic literature in 1987. Appointed to head a Hamas office in 1997, he has since grown in the ranks of the organization.

Haniyeh was head of the Hamas list that won the Palestinian legislative elections of 2006, and so became Prime Minister of the State of Palestine. President Mahmoud Abbas dismissed Haniyeh from office on 14 June 2007 at the height of the Fatah–Hamas conflict, but Haniyeh did not acknowledge the decree and continued to exercise prime ministerial authority in the Gaza Strip.[6]

Haniyeh was the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip from 2006 until February 2017, when he was replaced by Yahya Sinwar. On 6 May 2017, Haniyeh was elected chairman of Hamas's Political Bureau, replacing Khaled Mashaal; at the time, Haniyeh relocated from Gaza to Qatar.[7][8]

Early life and education

Haniyeh was born in the Al-Shati refugee camp in the Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip. His Palestinian parents had become refugees, after they fled from their home near in what is now the Israeli town Ashkelon during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.[4] In his Youth he worked in Israel to support his family.[9] He attended United Nations-run schools and graduated from the Islamic University of Gaza with a degree in Arabic literature in 1987.[4][5] While at university he had become involved with Hamas.[4] From 1985 to 1986, he was head of the students' council representing the Muslim Brotherhood.[5] He also played as a midfielder in the Islamic Association football team.[5] He graduated at about the same time the First Intifada against the Israeli occupation started in the Gaza Strip.[4]

Early activism

Haniyeh participated in protests in the First Intifada and was given a short prison sentence by an Israeli military court.[4] He was detained by Israel again in 1988 and imprisoned for six months.[4] In 1989 he was imprisoned for three years.[4]

Following his release in 1992, the Israeli military authorities of the occupied Palestinian territories deported him to Lebanon with senior Hamas leaders Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi, Mahmoud Zahhar, Aziz Duwaik, and 400 other activists.[4] The activists stayed at Marj al-Zahour in southern Lebanon for over a year, where according to BBC News, Hamas "received unprecedented media exposure and became known throughout the world".[4] A year later, he returned to Gaza and was appointed dean of the Islamic University.[4]

Political career


After Israel released Ahmed Yassin from prison in 1997, Haniyeh was appointed to head his office.[4] His prominence within Hamas grew due to his relationship with Yassin and he was appointed as the representative to the Palestinian Authority.[4] His position within Hamas continued to strengthen during the Second Intifada due to his relationship with Yassin, and because of the assassinations of much of the Hamas leadership by the Israeli security forces. He was targeted by the Israel Defense Forces for his alleged involvement in attacks against Israeli citizens. Following a suicide bombing in Jerusalem in 2003, he was slightly injured on his hand by an Israeli Air Force bomb attack attempting to eliminate the Hamas leadership. In December 2005, Haniyeh was elected[citation needed] to head the Hamas list, which won the Legislative Council elections the following month. Haniyeh succeeded Khaled Mashaal's head leadership of Hamas in elections held in 2016.[10]

Prime minister

Graduation ceremony of police forces in Gaza, 16 June 2012
Haniyeh with Turkish Minister of Culture Numan Kurtulmuş, 20 November 2012
Haniyeh and Khaled Mashal in Gaza, 8 December 2012

Haniyeh was nominated as prime minister on 16 February 2006 following the Hamas "List of Change and Reform" victory on 25 January 2006. He was formally presented to president Mahmoud Abbas on 20 February and was sworn in on 29 March 2006.

Western reaction

Israel implemented a series of punitive measures, including economic sanctions, against the Palestinian Authority following the election. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, announced that Israel would not transfer to the Palestinian Authority an estimated $50 million per month in tax receipts that were collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. Haniyeh dismissed the sanctions, stating that Hamas would neither disarm nor would it recognize Israel.

Haniyeh expressed regret that Hamas was subjected to punitive measures, adding that "it [Israel] should have responded differently to the democracy expressed by the Palestinian people".[citation needed]

The United States demanded that $50 million in unexpended foreign aid funds for the Palestinian Authority be returned to the United States, which Palestinian Economic Minister Mazen Sonokrot agreed to do.[11] On the loss of foreign aid from the United States and the European Union, Haniyeh commented that: "The West is always using its donations to apply pressure on the Palestinian people."[12]

Several months after Hamas' 2006 election victory, Haniyeh sent a letter to US President Bush, in which he called on the "American government to have direct negotiations with the elected government", offered a long-term truce with Israel, while accepting a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and urged an end to the international boycott, claiming that it would "encourage violence and chaos". The U.S. government did not respond and maintained its boycott.[13]

Dispute with Abbas

An agreement with Abbas was to have been reached to stop Abbas's call for new elections. On 20 October 2006, on the eve of this deal to end factional fighting between Fatah and Hamas, Haniyeh's convoy came under gunfire in Gaza and one of the cars was set on fire.[14] Haniyeh was not hurt in the attack. Hamas sources said that this was not an assassination attempt. Palestinian Authority security sources reported that the attackers were the relatives of a Fatah man killed by clashes with Hamas.[15]

Denied reentry to Gaza

During the simmering Fatah–Hamas conflict, on 14 December 2006, Haniyeh was denied entry to Gaza from Egypt at the Rafah Border Crossing. The border crossing was closed by order of Israeli Minister of Defence, Amir Peretz. Haniyeh was returning to Gaza from his first official trip abroad as prime minister. He was carrying an estimated 30 million USD in cash, intended for Palestinian Authority payments. Israeli authorities later stated that they would allow Haniyeh to cross the border provided he leave the money in Egypt, which would reportedly be transferred to an Arab League bank account. A gun battle between Hamas militants and the Palestinian Presidential Guard was reported at the Rafah Border Crossing in response to the incident. The EU monitors who operated the crossing were reportedly evacuated safely.[16] When Haniyeh later attempted to cross the border, an exchange of gunfire left one bodyguard dead and Haniyeh's eldest son wounded. Hamas denounced the incident as an attempt by rival Fatah on Haniyeh's life, prompting firefights in the West Bank and Gaza Strip between Hamas and Fatah forces. Haniyeh was quoted as saying that he knew who the alleged perpetrators were, but declined to identify them and appealed for Palestinian unity. Egypt has since offered to mediate the situation.[17]

Palestinian National Unity Government of March 2007

Haniyeh and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2012

Haniyeh resigned on 15 February 2007 as part of the process to form a national unity government between Hamas and Fatah.[18] He formed a new government on 18 March 2007 as head of a new cabinet that included Fatah as well as Hamas politicians.[19]

On 14 June 2007, amid the Battle of Gaza, president Mahmoud Abbas announced the dissolution of the March 2007 unity government and the declaration of a state of emergency.[20][21] Haniyeh was dismissed and Abbas ruled Gaza and the West Bank by presidential decree.[6]

After the Battle of Gaza

Around 2016, Haniyeh relocated from Gaza to Qatar. He currently maintains an office in Doha.[22]

On 13 October 2016, the Legal Committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) endorsed a request for the return of Haniyeh's government to the Gaza Strip, following its resignation on 2 June 2014. The endorsement was made in response to PLC's review of a study submitted by members of Hamas' parliament, angry about perceived government failings following Haniyeh's resignation. In Hamas' own words, denouncing the consensus government's "reneging on the internal accord between Hamas and factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization to form the 2014 consensus government, and replacing a number of ministers with Fatah leaders – turning it into a Fatah government." Despite the PLC recommendation and Hamas' plea, both the consensus government and Fatah refused the request, citing in a press release its illegality and risk of further divisions between Hamas-controlled Gaza and the West Bank.[23]

Head of Hamas political bureau

As of November 2016, reports circulated regarding Haniyeh's succession of Khaled Mashaal as leader of Hamas.[24] Mashaal, Haniyeh and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met in Qatar recently to discuss national reconciliation and the upcoming national elections.[25] This meeting signaled that Haniyeh had been selected over the other two likely candidates, senior Hamas member Moussa Mohammed Abu Marzook and Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahhar.[26]

In 2018 he was placed on United States' list of specially designated global terrorists.[27]

Haniyeh left Gaza in September to visit a series of Arab and Muslim states in preparation for his new role, and officially relocated to the Qatari capital of Doha, where Mashaal has been residing.[28] It is expected of the head of Hamas' politburo to live outside of the Gaza Strip.[24]

In February 2020, Haniyeh met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. U.S. State Department stated: "President Erdogan’s continued outreach to this terrorist organization only serves to isolate Turkey from the international community, harms the interests of the Palestinian people, and undercuts global efforts to prevent terrorist attacks launched from Gaza."[29]

In August 2020, Haniyeh called Mahmoud Abbas and rejected the peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, something which Reuters called a "rare show of unity".[30]

On 26 July 2023, Haniyeh met with Erdoğan and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Behind the meeting was Turkey's effort to reconcile Fatah with Hamas.[31]

Israel–Hamas war

On 7 October 2023, the day of the Hamas attack on Israel, Haniyeh was in Istanbul, Turkey.[32] Haniyeh gave a televised address in which he cited threats to Al-Aqsa mosque and the Israeli blockade of Gaza, and plight of Palestinian refugees:[33] "How many times have we warned you that the Palestinian people have been living in refugee camps for 75 years, and you refuse to recognise the rights of our people?"[33] He went on to say that Israel, "which cannot protect itself in the face of resistors", could not provide protection for other Arab countries, and that "all the normalization agreements that you signed with that entity cannot resolve this (Palestinian) conflict"[34][35]

PCPSR opinion poll on Palestinian presidential election candidates[36]
WestBank (Sep 2023)
WestBank (Dec 2023)
GazaStrip (Sep 2023)
GazaStrip (Dec 2023)
  •   Ismail Haniyeh
  •   Mahmoud Abbas

On 10 October, Haniyeh said Hamas would not consider the release of any Israeli captives until the war was over. He claimed that the scope of Israel's retaliation was a reflection of the "resounding impact" the October 7 attack had on the country, and reiterated that the Palestinian people in Gaza had a "willingness to sacrifice all that is precious for the sake of their freedom and dignity.” He added that Israel "will pay a heavy price for their crimes and terrorism [against the people of Palestine]."[37]

On 15 October 2023, Times of Israel said that Haniyeh "was politely sent away" from Turkey; Turkey officially denied these reports.[38] Haniyeh later met with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Doha, Qatar.[39]

On 16 October 2023, Haniyeh and Turkey's Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan discussed the possibility of releasing the hostages taken during the Hamas attack on Israel.[40] On 21 October 2023, Haniyeh spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about the latest developments in the Israel–Hamas war and the current situation in Gaza.[41]

On 1 November 2023, Haniyeh accused Israel of committing "barbaric massacres against unarmed civilians" after Israel conducted an attack on the Jabalia refugee camp in an operation targeting senior Hamas member Ibrahim Biari, and resolved that fighting would continue until "Palestinians obtain their 'legitimate rights to freedom, independence and return'".[42]

On 2 November 2023, Haniyeh stated that if Israel agreed to a ceasefire and the opening of humanitarian corridors to bring more aid into Gaza, Hamas is "ready for political negotiations for a two-state solution with Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine,” adding that "Israeli captives are subjected to the same destruction and death as our people."[43]

On 13 December, an opinion poll by showed that Haniyeh would defeat incumbent Mahmoud Abbas by a landslide for the position of President of the State of Palestine (78% for Haniyeh and 16% for Abbas).[44] However, in a three-way race between Haniyeh, Abbas and Marwan Barhgouti, Barghouti would win 47%, Haniyeh would win 43% and Abbas would win 7%. Barghouti is under solitary imprisonment by Israel.[45]


Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversy

During the Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversy in 2006, Haniyeh strongly objected to the Pope's remarks: "In the name of the Palestinian people, we condemn the Pope’s remarks on Islam. These remarks go against the truth and touch the heart of our faith." He also denounced the Palestinian attacks on churches in the West Bank and Gaza.[46]

Relations with Israel

In August 2006, on his first visit abroad as prime minister to Iran, Haniyeh said: "We will never recognize the usurper Zionist government and will continue our jihad-like movement until the liberation of Jerusalem".[47] In December 2010, Haniyeh stated at a news conference in Gaza, "We accept a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the resolution of the issue of refugees." In addition, he said that if the Palestinian electorate approves such a peace agreement with Israel, his government will abide by it notwithstanding previous Hamas positions on the issue.[48]

On 23 March 2014, during a festival commemorating the tenth anniversary of the assassination of Sheik Ahmad Yassin, Haniyeh delivered a speech to a crowd of Hamas supporters, saying "From within Gaza, I repeat again and again: We will not recognize Israel... The Gaza blockade is unfortunately getting tighter and tighter." During this speech, the crowd chanted "Move forward Hamas, move! We are the cannon and you are the bullets. … Oh Qassam, our beloved, bombard Tel Aviv."[49]

Osama bin Laden

On 2 May 2011, Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces, and the killing was praised by Hamas's rival Fatah.[50] Haniyeh instead referred to bin Laden as an "Arab holy warrior"[51] and condemned his killing as "the continuation of the American oppression and shedding of blood of Muslims and Arabs".[50] Political analysts said the remarks were an attempt to cool differences in the Gaza Strip with Al-Qaeda-inspired Salafi groups, which condemn Hamas as too moderate.[50] Another analyst wrote that Haniyeh's statement was directed at an Arab audience, and he saw an opportunity to distinguish Hamas from Fatah and exploit anti-American sentiment.[52] The United States government condemned his remarks as "outrageous".[53]

Personal and family life

Haniyeh praying behind Khamenei during the funeral of Qasem Soleimani

Haniyeh is married and has 13 children, three of whom were killed in 2024.[54] In 2009, the family lived in Al-Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip.[5] In 2010, Haniyeh purchased a 2,500 square metres (0.6 acres) parcel of land in Rimal, a Gaza City beachfront neighborhood.[54] Haniyeh registered the land in the name of his son-in-law.[54] Subsequently, Haniyeh reportedly purchased additional homes and registered them under the names of his children.[54] According to a 2014 Ynet article, Haniyeh is a millionaire, stemming from the 20% tax charged on all items entering through tunnels from Egypt to the Gaza Strip.[54] Haniyeh's eldest son was arrested by Egyptian authorities at the Rafah Border Crossing with several million dollars, which he intended to take into Gaza.[54]

Haniyeh's sisters, Kholidia, Laila, and Sabah, are Israeli citizens and live in the Bedouin town of Tel as-Sabi in southern Israel.[55] Kholodia moved to Tel as-Sabi first and then her two sisters followed.[55] Kholidia's husband said "Our life is normal here and we want it to continue."[55] Laila and Sabah are both widowed but remain in Tel as-Sabi, presumably to retain their Israeli citizenship.[55] Some of the children of the three sisters have served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).[55]

In early 2012, Israeli authorities granted a request to travel by Haniyeh's sister, Suhila Abd el‑Salam Ahmed Haniyeh, and her critically ill husband for emergency heart treatment that could not be treated by hospitals in Gaza.[56] After successful treatment at the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva, Israel, the couple returned to Gaza.[56] Haniyeh's granddaughter was treated in an Israeli hospital in November 2013 and his mother-in-law was treated in an Israeli hospital in June 2014.[57] In October 2014, a few months after the 2014 Israel–Gaza War, Haniyeh's daughter spent a week in an Israeli hospital in Tel Aviv for emergency treatment after she suffered complications from a routine procedure.[57]

In September 2016, Haniyeh left Gaza with his wife and two of his sons for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, known as the Hajj. This trip, interpreted as a campaign commencement, bolstered reports that Haniyeh was to replace Mashaal.[58] He went to Qassim Suleimani's funeral, in Tehran, Iran in 2020.[59][60]

Haniyeh currently lives in Qatar.[61][62][63][64]

In October 2023, 14 members of his family were killed in an Israeli airstrike on his family home in Gaza City, among them a brother and nephew.[65] In November 2023, a granddaughter of his was reportedly killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City.[66] Later that month his eldest grandson was killed in an Israeli strike.[67] Three of his sons and three grandchildren were killed in an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip on 10 April 2024.[68][69]


  1. ^ Arabic: إسماعيل هنية, romanized: Ismaʻīl Haniyya; sometimes transliterated as Haniya, Haniyah, or Hanieh


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External links

Political offices
Preceded by Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority
2006–2014 (in dissidence in the Gaza Strip only from June 2007)
Succeeded by