Gaza premier elected as No. 2 in Hamas leadership

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hamas says it has elected Gaza's prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, as the deputy leader of the Islamic militant group.

Senior Hamas figures this week re-elected longtime leader Khaled Mashaal to another four-year term. On Wednesday, the group announced it had elected Haniyeh, 50, as Mashaal's deputy.

Hamas, founded in Gaza in 1987, also has branches in the West Bank and outside the Palestinian territories.

Haniyeh's election signals a shift in the group's center of gravity toward Gaza, the territory the group has ruled since a violent takeover in 2007. Traditionally, top Hamas leaders have been exiles. Haniyeh is the first Gazan to rise to the No. 2 spot.

Last year, Hamas hard-liners in Gaza balked at Mashaal's attempt to reconcile with his political rival, West Bank-based Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

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