Photo: Flash90

No clear win in Hamas elections

Secret Hamas leadership elections have reportedly ended in a deadlock between current chief Yahya Sinwar and his leading rival Nizar Awadallah.

While the terror group has yet to make an official statement, Arab media outlets are reporting that 3 separate rounds of voting last night ended without a clear winner among the 5 contenders.

Balloting for Hamas leadership is supposed to be held every 4 years, although the last vote was held in 2017. At that time, Sinwar became the de facto leader of the Palestinian enclave as head of the Gaza office when he replaced Ismail Haniyeh, who in turn ousted Khaled Mashaal as Hamas political chief after 21 years.

Winners are declared by a simple majority vote in a clandestine internal electoral process conducted by the 320-member, quasi-legislative Shura Council, sometimes stretching out for months.

Hamas sources speaking on condition of anonymity were cited by the Israeli Ynet news website as saying the result will be announced “next week,” while the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency is reporting that the leadership vote has now been postponed to “a later date” and that the winners will not be revealed until April.

The Lebanese Al-Mayadeen TV channel said Awadallah led Sinwar by 7 votes after the first round of voting, as other Lebanese media said Sinwar was decisively ousted.

Sinwar is a former commander of Hamas’s military wing, known as “the Butcher from Khan Younis” for murdering so-called Palestinian collaborators with Israel. He was sentenced to four life terms in Israeli prison in 1989 for involvement in the abduction and killing of 2 IDF soldiers, but released in 2011 as part of the prisoner exchange deal for captured IDF Sgt. Gilad Shalit.

Awadallah, who played a key role in that same prisoner swap, is the former head of the Shura Council. He is a member of the Hamas politburo, and reportedly close to Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmad Yassin as well as former Hamas political bureau chief, Khaled Mashaal.

Hamas political leader Haniyeh is based in Qatar, but expected to return for competition in the 22 May Palestinian legislative elections against his group’s West Bank rivals, the Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

In related developments, Hamas’ armed wing said it has opened an investigation into the killings of 3 Palestinian fishermen on Sunday when their boat exploded off the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said the boat was “destroyed” two miles offshore after being slammed by a rocket. The center condemned the incident, which it said in a statement was likely the “result of resistance training,” in reference to Palestinian militant groups.