The 69-year-old leader of Hamas had reportedly ignored public urgings to step down as a defacto leader after losing Gaza to the Israeli-appointed border blockade after the 2011 war. A failure to quickly rebuild his country after that war would have raised serious concerns that he was unable to lead Gaza back on its feet again. Since then, the group has been suffering from economic woes that it blames partly on international boycotts and the U.S. doubling down on its campaign of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) against the group.
Haniyeh was born on Jan. 28, 1952, in Kuwait. He served as Palestinian ambassador to Tehran from 1991 to 1995, when he is said to have grown tired of his job and returned to the Palestinian territories. It was there that he was first made head of Hamas’s military wing, which served to inaugurate his political career in 2000. Hamas military victories over Israel, including one in 2008, stoked up widespread resentment against the group as well as growing criticism of its political leadership. After Israel’s disastrous assault on Gaza in 2010, Haniyeh gave up his leadership of the group’s military wing to another Hamas leader, Mahmoud al-Zahar. Still, he was eventually appointed Prime Minister of Gaza by Mahmoud Abbas, and even named as president by members of his own group.