Ismail Haniyeh is a senior leader of Hamas and one of the disputed Prime Ministers of the Palestinian Nathional Authority.
Haniyeh was born in the Shati refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, although the exact date of his birth is unknown. He began studying Arabic literature at the Islamic University in Gaza in 1987, where he became active in Islamic student movements. In 1992, he was deported to Lebanon along with 400 other Hamas activists, but was eventually allowed to return to Gaza. Upon his return, he was appointed dean of the Islamic University, and became the leader of Hamas' student movement.
In 1997, Haniyeh was appointed to head the office of Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, and his elevated position put him on the radar of the Israel Defense Forces. In 2003, following a suicide bombing on a bus in Jerusalem, the Israeli air force attempted to assassinate Haniyeh, Yassin, and bombmaker Mohammad Deif for having planned the attack; all three, however, escaped unscathed..
In December 2005, Haniyeh was elected to head the Hamas political list in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections. After Hamas won the election in January 2006, Haniyeh was nominated as Prime Minister on Februay 16, 2006 and was sworn in on March 29, 2006. Over the following year, Hamas broke with Fatah, the other main Palestinian faction, and Haniyeh was eventually dismissed from his position by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in June 2007. Haniyeh, however, continued to operate a government in Gaza.
Haniyeh is married and is reported to have 12 children.