Khaled Meshal will step down as Hamas chief following an upcoming election to determine the group's new political leader, a senior Hamas analyst said in an article that has been garnering much attention in the Arab Media on Tuesday.
In the online article, widely quoted in the Arab press Tuesday morning, Mustafa Lidawi wrote that Meshal would be letting other Hamas leaders run for the leadership of the organization political bureau and steer the movements policy, after he retires, in the next few months.
Lidawi is a well-known and long standing member of the Hamas with strong ties to its leadership. In the past he had been the organizations representative to Lebanon.
Hamas declined to respond.
Meshal was elected head of Hamass political bureau in 1997, after Dr. Mousa Abu Marzook was arrested.
Shortly after his assent to Hamas leadership, Meshal was the target of a botched assassination attempt by agents from Israels Mossad espionage agency operating covertly in Jordan.
His life was saved when Israel agreed to hand over the antidote to the toxin used on him, in return for the release of the two Mossad agents caught and held in Jordan during the assassination attempt.
Hamas is a militant and political Islamist group operating in the West Bank and Gaza. It is designated as a terrorist organization by much of the international community, but enjoys wide support from Palestinians as a legitimate force against Israel.
Long-standing tensions between Hamas and the secular Fatah came to a head following the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, which gave Hamas a decisive victory and put it in charge of the political regime in the Palestinian territories.
Hamas Gaza chief, Ismail Haniyeh, was named Palestinian prime minister, but Hamas status as a terror group resulted in immediate sanctions from Israel and other Western countries. The group rejected demands to adhere to previously signed peace agreements, renounce violence and accept Israels right to exist, and the sanctions were upheld.
Meanwhile, tensions with Fatah grew as the two factions attempted to cooperate with the framework of a unity government, but when the attempt failed and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas dissolved the government, bloody clashes erupted between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza, resulting in the seizure of the area by Hamas in June 2007.
There have been numerous attempts by neighboring Arab countries to end the Hamas-Fatah rift, and form a unified Palestinian leadership. The failure of the two groups to come together has perpetuated the continuing division within the Palestinian Authority, with Fatah as de facto rulers in the West Bank, and Hamas firmly in control in Gaza.