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Hamas policy shift deepens internal rift

Senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar's objection to recognizing Israel's 1967 borders as the basis for the creation of a future Palestinian state puts him at odds with the movement's new leadership.
Veteran Hamas strategist Mahmoud Al-Zahar gestures during an interview with Reuters at his house in Gaza City April 29, 2014. A Palestinian unity deal will not lead Islamist group Hamas to recognise Israel's right to exist and will not result in any Gaza militants coming under President Mahmoud Abbas's control, Al-Zahar said on Tuesday. To match Interview PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL/HAMAS  REUTERS/Suhaib Salem (GAZA - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR3N3DL

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, is denying reports by the Watan 24 news agency and the Egyptian Al-Youm Al-Sabeh newspaper that he has resigned from Hamas’ political bureau after the election of Ismail Haniyeh as the movement's leader. “It’s yellow journalism,” said Zahar in a reply sent to the Palestinian and Egyptian news operations. Zahar claimed that the allegations were Israeli propaganda aimed at undercutting Hamas’ leadership. In another published response, Zahar even claimed that Fatah was spreading false rumors about him.

However, Al-Monitor has learned that the results of the political bureau election have created a deep rift within the movement. Palestinian sources in Gaza and a security source in Israel following Hamas' leadership changes confirm that Zahar threatened to resign but changed his mind after being pressured by hawkish members of the political and military leaderships. According to the sources, they were able to convince Zahar that only from within the movement’s leadership could he act effectively to stop the process of moderation it is undergoing following Haniyeh’s election and to nullify the changes in policy announced this month by former political bureau chief Khaled Meshaal.

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