Hamas says Ismail Haniyeh chosen as Islamic group’s leader

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hamas is confirming that its former Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniyeh has been chosen as the Islamic militant group’s top leader.

Spokesman for the militant group Fawzi Barhoum says Haniyeh was picked Saturday as Hamas politburo chief. He replaces Khaled Mashaal, its longtime leader.

The announcement comes shortly after Gaza’s rulers unveiled a new, seemingly more pragmatic political program aimed at ending the group’s international isolation.

Hamas is trying to rebrand itself as an Islamic national liberation movement, rather than a branch of the pan-Arab Muslim Brotherhood, which has been outlawed by Egypt. It has also dropped explicit language calling for Israel’s destruction, though it retains the goal of eventually “liberating” all of historic Palestine, which includes what is now Israel.

Hamas has ruled Gaza since 2007.

(Copyright (c) 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)