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Khaled Meshal

(1956 - )

Khaled Meshal was a leader of Hamas.

Born in 1956 in the Silwad neighborhood of Ramallah, he moved with his family to Kuwait and lived there until the 1990 Gulf War. He led Islamist Palestinians at Kuwait University, challenging the dominance of Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization on the Kuwait University campus. Meshal participated in the foundation of the Islamic Haqq Bloc, which competed with Fateh's blocs on leading the General Union for the Palestinian Students in Kuwait.

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from Kuwait University and went on to teach Physics in Kuwaiti schools. He was married in 1981 and has seven children, four boys and three girls. When Iraq invaded Kuwait, Mashal moved his family to Jordan and began his work with Hamas as one of its founders. He has been a member of the Hamas Political Bureau since its inception and became its chairman in 1996.

On September 25, 1997, Israeli Mossad agents tried to poison him. He would have died, but the Mossad agents were captured and provoked a crisis in Israeli-Jordan relations. King Hussein insisted that Israel send the antidote to save Mashal's life. Israel agreed and the two agents were later released in a prisoner exchange in which Israel released Sheikh Ahmed Yassin from jail. Jordan later expelled Mashal to Qatar when Jordan's relationship with Hamas deteriorated. Mashal then moved to Damascus, Syria, where he ran the Hamas "political wing."

In 2001, Meshal moved to Damascus, Syria. After the IDF assassinated Sheikh Ahmed Yassin on May 22, 2003, Meshal was appointed the world leader of Hamas. Though he was publicly critical of Yasser Arafat, he attended his funeral in 2004.

Meshal was involved in negotiating the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas, who kidnapped Shalit and held him hostage for nearly five years. Israel negotiated with Hamas through Egypt and Shalit was finally returned to Israel safely in October 2011, only after Israel released more than 1,000 convicted Palestinian terrorists from Israeli jails.

In 2012, as the Syrian civil war raged on, Meshal left Syria for Qatar. That year he also visited Gaza for the first time to celebrate Hamas' 25th anniversary. Meshal announced his support for the Syrian opposition also in 2012.

Meshal resigned as chairman of the politburo in 2017 and was succeeded by Ismail Haniyeh,

Sources: Radio Free Europe.
Palestine Information Center.

Photo: 20 minutos, CC BY-SA 2.1 ES via Wikimedia Commons.