Daniel Braun
's TOI Blog

Who is who in Hamas? pt.1

A few days ago, a three-person delegation from Hamas arrived in Cairo to discuss the possibility of a new, and maybe final hostage deal. Making sense of who these people are can be pretty hard. These days we have all been hearing names in Arabic, and roles in the movement, but many of us don’t really understand who it is we are talking about. This article will deal with the most influential leaders in Hamas today, both inside and outside the Gaza Strip.

The 3 leaders in negotiations in Cairo

1. Ismail Haniyeh

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Born: 1962, Al-Shati refugee camp, Gaza Strip

Current position: Hamas’ Political Bureau Chief

Born in 1962 in the Al-Shati refugee camp in the Gaza Strip to 1948 war refugee parents from an Arab village near Ashkelon, Ismail Haniyeh had a long journey in Palestinian Islamist politics and activism that led him to become today’s chief of Hamas’ Political Bureau. Haniyeh spent his early life in the Shati camp, where he got his basic education from an UNRWA school. He later studied Arabic literature in 1981 at the Islamic University of Gaza, where he led a student association affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, starting his political activist career.

He became very close with Hamas’ leader, the Sheikh Ahmed Yassin during the late 80’s, and was an important figure when Hamas was being built during late 1987-1988. In 1988 he was arrested by the IDF for the first time for his involvement during the 1st Intifada and was released six months later. He was arrested again in 1989, and in 1992 he was deported to Souther Lebanon with a big group of Islamist prisoners, where they met and established ties with Hezbollah.

In 1993, thanks to the Oslo agreements, he was able to return to Gaza, where he became dean of the Islamic University. In 1997 he was appointed Yassin’s personal secretary and he was very close to him until Yassin’s assassination in 2004.

In 2006, Hamas decided to run for the first time in the Palestinian Authority’s legislative elections. Haniyeh became the head of Hamas’ list called “Change and Reform”. Hamas won the election, and he became the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority. After a lot of internal turmoil between Fatah and Hamas and international pressure, the PA’s president, Abu Mazen dismissed Haniyeh as Prime Minister and his government in June 2007.

Hamas disagreed with Abu Mazen’s decision and decided to take the Gaza Strip by force that same year. It was a bloody takeover, with a lot of destruction of former Fatah members’ properties and the assassination of many of them in the hands of Hamas militants. Haniyeh called for “calm and self-restraint” and for his people to “not take any action against those houses and compounds that contradicts the morals of our people”, but still blamed the bloodshed on Abu Mazen’s decision to dismiss him. He still considered himself the PA’s Prime Minister for some years, although Abu Mazen had appointed Salam Fayyad in his place.

In 2014, after an attempt to create a revitalized national unity government between Hamas and Fatah, Haniyeh resigned his claim to the Palestinian’s premiership, and the Hamas-ruled government in the Gaza Strip. The national unity government attempt failed, and Haniyeh took the position of Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip, no longer claiming to be the PA’s Prime Minister.

In 2017, he left the position as Hamas’ head in the Gaza Strip and was replaced by its current leader, Yahya Sinwar. That same year, Haniyeh was elected Hamas’ Political Bureau chief, a position he holds until today. In December 2019 he left Gaza to live in Turkey and Qatar. Ever since he’s become Hamas’ face in the diaspora.

Some of the most recent events he’s been related to have been the visit to Qassem Soleimani’s funeral in 2020 and the inauguration of Ebrahim Raissi’s presidency in 20221, both in Iran. He called Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban to congratulate him when they took over Afghanistan in 2021. In 2022 he met with Syria’s president Bashar Al-Assad. Today he is part of Hamas’ delegation to Cairo for war negotiations, and he’s been a key figure during the 2023-2024 Israel-Hamas war, as a representative of the movement outside of the Gaza Strip.

2. Khalil al-Hayya

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Born: 1960, Gaza Strip

Current position: deputy leader of Hamas’ regional Political Bureau in Gaza

Khalil al-Hayya was born in 1960 in the Gaza Strip. After completing his basic studies, he studied for his Bachelor’s in Religion at the Islamic University of Gaza in 1983, where he was part of the student council and eventually became its president. He became a lecturer at the university on topics related to religion. He later studied for a Master’s in Sunnah and Hadith sciences in Jordan and got a PhD in the same topic in Sudan.

He joined Hamas during the 1st Intifada. He was arrested by the IDF in 1990 and spent 3 years in prison. After his liberation, he became a prominent activist in the movement.

In the 2006′ PA legislative elections, he was part of Hamas’ “Change and Reform” list, gaining a seat in the parliament after their triumph. After Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Israel made an assassination attempt against him. He survived, but 7 family members died, including his wife and 3 children. He was a key figure in the ceasefire negotiations during the Tzuk Eitan military operation in the Summer of 2014.

After internal elections, he was elected as the deputy head of Gaza’s regional Political Bureau in 2017. In May 2021, there were supposed to be elections to the PA’s legislative, and Al-Hayya led Hamas’ “Jerusalem is our promise” list. The elections were canceled after the 2021 Guardian of the Walls military operation. In 2021 he was reelected as the deputy head of the regional Political Bureau. Ever since that year, Al-Hayya worked as Sinwar’s de facto right hand.

At some point before the October 7th attack, he left Gaza and has been moving ever since between Egypt, Lebanon, and Qatar.

3. Zaher Jabarin

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Born: 1968, Salfit, Northern West Bank

Current position: Hamas’ CEO (financial operations leader), former deputy and possible successor to deceased Salah El-Arouri, Hamas’ leader in the West Bank

Zaher Jabarin was born and raised in the Palestinian village of Salfit in the northern West Bank in 1968, just a year after this territory came under Israel’s hands. He grew up as a religious boy, and very much liked reading the Muslim Brotherhood founder, Hassan Al-Banah’s texts. He later studied Islamic law at the Al-Najah University in Nablus.

Jabarin joined Hamas when it was founded in 1987, and was a key figure in creating its military wing. He is associated with many different terror attacks during the late 80’s and early 90’s. He was also responsible for enlisting Yahya Ayyash, also known as “the engineer” into Hamas.

In 1993 he was arrested by the Shabak and got a life sentence plus another 35 years in prison for his involvement in terror attacks against Israelis. During his time in prison, he took upon himself the task of translating texts from Hebrew to Arabic and also tried to organize terrorist attacks throughout the West Bank. He was released from prison in 2011 during the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange.

Since then, he has become deputy to Saleh El-Arouri, Hamas’ leader in the West Bank, and has been the man in charge of Hamas’ external financial operations. Based in Turkey, he built a financial empire for the terrorist organization, mainly moving financial resources from Iran into Gaza. His operations are estimated to be worth thousands of millions, or even half a billion dollars. He has also established significant relations with Turkey’s government and specifically its president Erdogan. He is also responsible for Hamas prisoners in Israeli jails.

After the assassination of Saleh El-Arouri in southern Lebanon in January this year, Jabarin has taken upon himself many of El-Arouri’s responsibilities as Hamas’ leader in the West Bank and is expected to become his official successor. He joined the Cairo negotiations as a representative of Hamas in the West Bank.


About the Author
Hi! This is Daniel Braun, a young Jew and proud zionist from Mexico learning about his background and other stuff, and trying to make an impact in this world. I hope you enjoy my ideas!