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Ismail Haniyeh [Abu al-'Abd]

Ismail Haniyeh was born in the refugee camp of Shati, west of Gaza City, in 1962. His parents had resided in the camp since they migrated from their homes during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. During the mid-1980s graduated from Gaza's Islamic University with a degree in Arabic literature. He was also the dean of the university. While in attendance he became enthralled with Islamic movements and developed a strong relationship with Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the founder of HAMAS. Haniyeh was imprisoned by Israeli forces on several occassions and, along with many Hamas figures, expelled to Lebanon in the early 1990s.

Ismail Haniyeh became the head of the Hamas Movement and a member of the "collective leadership" of Hamas in Gaza. Due to his close association with Yassin he was placed in charge of his office in the late 1990s. This affiliation also left him vulnerable to assassination attempts and Israeli airstrikes. He often served as the liaison between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. He rose through the leadership ranks after the assassinations of Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi.

He is considered a moderate and, as such, he was placed at the head of the Hamas list in an effort to win over mainstream Palestinian voters in the 2006 Palestinian parlimentary elections. Hamas ended up winning a vast majority of the seats in parliament. After the elections, Haniyeh called for a political partnership to be discussed with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The two parties were incapable of coming to an agreement however, and Haniyeh eventually becamse Prime Minister of the newly formed Hamas government in early 2006.

Factional violence and outside pressures, most notably the economic sanctions imposed by the United States, Israel, and the European Union, forced Hamas and Fatah to finally form a new, unity government in February 2007. Haniyeh retained his post as Prime Minister once the new government was formed. He is considered to be pragmatic and more open to having talks with Israel than other leaders within Hamas. Though considered a Hamas moderate, some believe Haniya's moderation to be a political tactic.

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