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out with the old

Hamas chooses new political leader

Hamas on Saturday elected Ismail Haniyeh as its new political leader, replacing Khaled Meshaal, who reached his two-term limit.

Unlike Meshaal, who is exiled in Qatar, Haniyeh lives in the Gaza Strip. The former Hamas prime minister is considered a pragmatist and comes to office shortly after the Palestinian organization debuted a more moderate stance toward Israel, dropping its demand for Israel's destruction (without recognizing the country's right to exist) and cutting ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Haniyeh will likely be "more flexible on different aspects, maybe foremost is the reconciliation," said political analyst Hani Habib, who lives in Gaza, but will probably not effect a major transformation of Israeli-Palestinian relations. Hamas maintains a militant wing and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union. The Israeli government did not immediately comment on the election.