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Ismail Haniya

Political Figure

Born: 1962
Birthplace: Shati refugee camp, Gaza
Best known as: Palestinian Prime Minister, 2006-present
Palestinian Ismail Haniya took office as the prime minister on 21 February 2006, following the January election that gave his political party a majority of seats in parliament. Haniya (also spelled Haniyeh) got involved in politics when he was a student at the Islamic University of Gaza in the 1980s. After graduating with a degree in Arabic literature, he became more active in the Islamist movement, joining an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood known as Hamas (an Arabic acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement). Hamas advocates government based on Islamic principles, and their military wing has carried out attacks on Israelis (whom they call "Zionist occupiers") since 1987. Haniya was detained for protests in 1987 and 1988, then deported to southern Lebanon in 1992. He returned to Gaza in 1993 and became a dean at the Islamic University, at the same time rising in the ranks of the Hamas organization. By 2001 he had become one of the top political leaders of the movement. Although Hamas is considered a radical movement by the Palestinian Authority, Haniya has the reputation of being one of its more moderate members. As prime minister he served with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah party, until violence in Gaza in 2007 led to Abbas dissolving the government and "firing" Haniya, who vowed to carry on regardless. Abbas appointed the former finance minister, Salam Fayyad as prime minister in June of 2007.
Extra credit: Haniya was an assistant to Hamas co-founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin from 1997 until Yassin was killed by Israeli forces on 22 March 2004... Opposed to the 1993 Oslo Accords, Hamas members broadened their attacks to include civilians, earning the enmity of the United States and the European Union, who consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

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