The man who looks younger than he is

The alleged Hamas prime minister has been around for a very long time, and while some may not think Hamas is old enough to drive a vehicle, that isn’t quite true. On May 1,…

The man who looks younger than he is

The alleged Hamas prime minister has been around for a very long time, and while some may not think Hamas is old enough to drive a vehicle, that isn’t quite true.

On May 1, 1998, Ismail Haniyeh was formally named Hamas’ president, deputy head of the new ruling politburo in Gaza.

Today, he’s been elevated by the group’s spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was assassinated in 2004, to be “prime minister of the future Palestinian government.”

Since the 2000 coup attempt, Haniyeh has been the public face of Hamas. He was 35 at the time. In addition to being the organization’s sole representative in Gaza, Haniyeh was the front man for Hamas’ violent smuggling operations in the Sinai.

A year after he was named Hamas’ president, Haniyeh held his first rally in Hebron, still the most heavily guarded city in the West Bank.

Here he is in 2007 greeting the Palestinians’ first democratically elected president, Mahmoud Abbas, on his return to Gaza after a deadly incursion by Israel.

Haniyeh was the Hamas activist who met with fugitive Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat in 1979. They later corresponded.

He co-signed a statement with Yasser Arafat on the opening of the Karam bin Awwad mosque in Gaza in 1982. He later took over its operation when Arafat returned from exile in France.

In 1989, Haniyeh met with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini at Tehran’s University of Tehran. He emerged from the meeting as Iran’s only representative in Hamas’s politburo.

Like many Hamas officials, Haniyeh lost family in the 1993 synagogue bombing. Haniyeh’s sister lost the leg she used to walk at the synagogue and his father’s wife was hit in the head by shrapnel.

In 1997, Haniyeh posted the results of an election to a Hamas website.

In 2001, Haniyeh reportedly rejected al-Qaida’s offer of an Islamic state in Palestine but stressed that Palestine’s identity is Islamic.

In 2002, he and other Hamas officials formed a subcommittee to examine the Islamic movement’s fight with the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority.

He married. He met his wife, Sawsan Azzam, in 1995 when he was serving in the radical Islamic Jihad organization as a fighter in the northern West Bank town of Jenin.

She was a doctor in the Fatah’s surgical wing in Jericho. She separated from her husband two years later.

In 2005, Palestinians in Gaza rejected an Hamas-proposed cease-fire, which coincided with Israeli elections and Arafat’s death. Haniyeh and his fellow Hamas leaders called on Haniyeh to head a government of technocrats instead.

More than a year later, Haniyeh formally won a Palestinian parliamentary election runoff election against Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences for murder in an Israeli prison. Haniyeh took office as prime minister in January 2006 and introduced a new government.

Perhaps the most revealing event in Haniyeh’s life is the day in 2000 when he appeared at the court in Nablus to face charges for inciting Palestinian civilians to carry out attacks on Israelis. He eventually pleaded guilty to helping to organize the killings, though not to actual participation.

Haniyeh’s name also has appeared on a list of individuals who could be victims of the upcoming U.S. invasion of Iraq.

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