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Mahmoud al-Zahar

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Mahmoud al-Zahar
محمود الزهار
Foreign Minister of the Palestinian Authority
In office
20 March 2006 – 18 March 2007
Prime MinisterIsmail Haniyeh
Preceded byNasser al-Kidwa
Succeeded byZiad Abu Amr
Personal details
Born1945 (age 74–75)
Gaza City, British Mandate for Palestine
Political partyHamas
Alma materCairo University
Ain Shams University

Mahmoud al-Zahar (Arabic: محمود الزهارMaḥmūd az-Zahhār) (born 1945) is a Palestinian politician. He is a co-founder of Hamas and a member of the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip. Since the formation of the Hamas/"Change and Reform" government in the Palestinian National Authority in March 2006, al-Zahar has served as foreign minister in the government of prime minister Ismail Haniyeh. Prior to that he was seen as a major candidate among the Hamas members elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council for prime minister, as he was at that time the most senior official within the organization. His son, a member of the Hamas military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was killed by Israeli fire in Gaza on 5 January 2008.[1]

Early life

Little is known about al-Zahar's early life beyond the fact that he was born in Gaza City in 1945, and the report that he was born to a Palestinian father and an Egyptian mother.

At the age of 26, he graduated from the Cairo University Faculty of Medicine and five years later he got his Masters Degree in General Surgery from Ain Shams University, Cairo. He then became the adviser to the Palestinian Health Minister, and helped create the Palestinian Medical Society and was one of the primary founders of the Islamic University in Gaza in 1978.


Instrumental to the creation of Hamas in 1987, al-Zahar has remained a senior official and spokesperson for the group and is rumoured to have succeeded to leadership of the group following Israel's assassination of Ahmed Yassin in 2004. Hamas routinely denied this rumour, but refused to name who their new leader was, for fear of Israeli action.

In response to a campaign of suicide bombings by the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, an Israeli F-16 dropped on 10 September 2003 a large bomb over his house in the Rimal neighborhood of Gaza, which only managed to slightly wound him, while his son Khaled, and a personal bodyguard were killed, and twenty others wounded including his daughter Rima. His house was destroyed, and ten other houses nearby were damaged, as well as the nearby Al-Rahman mosque.[2] The resulting funeral was attended by over two thousand mourners, who called on Hamas to avenge the deaths.

On 15 January 2008, al-Zahar's son Hussam was reportedly killed in an IDF air strike on a car full of Hamas fighters in northern Gaza.

In 2010, al-Zahar revealed to the press that Yasser Arafat had instructed Hamas to launch militant attacks—including suicide bombings—against Israel in 2000, due to peace talks not going anywhere.[3]

Foreign Minister

On 20 March 2006, Hamas named al-Zahar foreign minister. Al-Zahar's main challenge has been to break the US-led diplomatic boycott of the Haniyeh government.

On 14 June 2006, Palestinian officials reported that Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar brought twelve suitcases stuffed with US$26.7 million in cash into Gaza through its border with Egypt, which is controlled by Palestinian guards loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah. Al-Zahar was at least the third known Hamas official to be caught with large sums of cash: Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri had been stopped the previous month.[4]

Hardline position

Incitement controversy

During the 2008-2009 Gaza War, al-Zahar, during a television broadcast, was reported to have said that the Israelis "have legitimised the murder of their own children by killing the children of Palestine... They have legitimised the killing of their people all over the world by killing our people."[5] This remark was widely reported as advocating the "murder" of Jewish children worldwide.[6][7][8] Maajid Nawaz condemned the remarks as "depraved" and "perverse Al-Qaeda logic," writing that, as opposed to Hamas, "Israel does not have an active policy of deliberately capturing children to murder them, or even deliberately murdering civilians for that matter." [9] Basim Naim, the minister of health in the Hamas government in Gaza, said Zahar's statements had been misquoted and mistranslated, and that what he did was to "warn that by carrying out these barbaric massacres of children and women, and by destroying our mosques, the Zionists are creating the conditions for people to believe it is justified or legitimate to take revenge....Dr Zahar did not even mention 'Jews' in his comments".[10]

Park51 endorsement

In an interview on New York's WABC radio, al-Zahar was asked by Aaron Klein to comment on the construction of the mosque Park51 near the World Trade Center site. Zahar, endorsed the building, by saying, "We have to build the mosque as you are allowed to build the church and the Israeli are building their holy places. We have to build everywhere — in every area we have Muslims, we have to pray, and this mosque is the only site of prayer especially for the people when they are looking to be in the group — not individual".[11][12][13][14]

Personal life

Al-Zahar has had four children with his wife Summaya, including their first son, Khaled, born in 1974, a daughter Rima born in 1983.[15]


  1. ^ Kershner, Isabel (16 January 2008). "18 Palestinians Killed in Gaza Clashes". Gaza Strip;Israel: Nytimes.com. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
  2. ^ "Middle East | Profile: Hamas' Mahmoud Zahhar". BBC News. 27 January 2006. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  3. ^ "Arafat ordered Hamas attacks against Israel in 2000", Jerusalem Post, reported 29 June 2010[[]] []
  4. ^ "Hamas minister carries millions of dollars into Gaza", ABC News, reported 14 June 2006 Archived 15 June 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "''Al Jazeera''". English.aljazeera.net. 5 January 2009. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
  6. ^ "UK TimesOnline". Archived from the original on 13 May 2011. Retrieved 2009-03-15.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  7. ^ "Hamas terror: every Jewish child now a target". Theaustralian.news.com.au. 27 January 2009. Archived from the original on 4 June 2009.
  8. ^ "Hamas leader: Revenge for Israels". The Telegraph. 6 January 2009.
  9. ^ Nawaz, Maajid (7 January 2009). "Mahmoud Zahar has betrayed his people". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
  10. ^ Naim, Basim (13 January 2009). "We believe in resistance, not revenge". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
  11. ^ S.A. Miller in Washington and TOM TOPOUSIS in New York (16 August 2010). "Hamas nod for Ground Zero mosque". NYPOST.com. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  12. ^ "Ground Zero mosque row to become muddier as Hamas pitches in with support - International Business Times". Ibtimes.com. 16 August 2010. Archived from the original on 8 March 2012. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  13. ^ [1] Archived 19 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Paul Woodward. "Hamas supports the right of Muslims to pray in mosques — even in New York". War in Context. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  15. ^ "Israel to Make Gestures to Palestinians - New York Times". The New York Times.

External links