Meshaal’s U-turn a setback for Hamas hardliners critical of his reforms

The National reports: Khaled Meshaal is standing for re-election to lead Hamas four months after announcing he would step down.

The decision is a setback for hardliners in the Islamist movement who have criticised Mr Meshaal’s recent reforms, which include dismantling Hamas’s headquarters in Damascus, reconciling with its Palestinian rival Fatah and tentatively embracing unarmed struggle against Israel.

Hamas’ senior leadership refused to accept Mr Meshaal’s decision in January not to seek another term as the group’s Political Bureau head, sources say.

They persuaded him to remain in his post and run for re-election in an upcoming secret party ballot, the sources say.

“Meshaal is still the head of Hamas and he has majority approval from the group, from both the leaders inside Gaza and abroad,” said a Hamas official in Gaza, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Mr Meshaal agreed to stay in his job and he “is considered one of the candidates to lead the group for the election.” the official said.

His continued leadership could have implications for Hamas’s orientation in a region divided between strengthened Sunni Islamist parties and the revolutionary-Islamist axis of Shiite Iran and Hizbollah and the regime in Syria.

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