He remained the organization's political leader in Gaza following its takeover of the territory a decade ago from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party as well as through years of blockade and war with Israel.
The Palestinian movement Hamas has elected Ismail Haniyeh to lead its political office.
Mr Haniya is seen as a pragmatist who will try to ease Hamas's worldwide isolation.
It declares for the first time a willingness to accept an interim Palestinian state within pre-1967 boundaries, without recognising Israel.
It also says its struggle is not against Jews due to their religion but against Israel as an occupier.
In August 2016, Israel revealed that the Arab manager of operations in Gaza of the global humanitarian NGO World Vision had funneled 60% of World Vision's Gaza budget to Hamas. According to NGO Monitor, "World Vision's failures in Gaza highlight the problems of a multi-billion dollar NGO industry that remains largely unregulated and unexamined".
They had previously lived in Ashkelon (or Asqalan in Arabic), which is today part of Israel and just next to the border with the Gaza Strip.
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The announcement came shortly after Gaza's rulers unveiled a new, seemingly more pragmatic political programme aimed at ending the group's global isolation.
"The new charter and Haniya's election are two of the biggest events in recent years", a European official based in Jerusalem told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A spokesman for Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas was "attempting to fool the world but it will not succeed".
The Israeli army appeared on Saturday to be urging Haniya not to seek a new confrontation. Prior to that, for 10 years, he worked for Hamas charities as well as at the Islamic University of Gaza.
Haniyeh used to be active within the "Islamic bloc, the student arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, where from Hamas has emerged".
Labeled a terrorist organization by the West and Israel, Hamas said it would continue armed resistance as a legitimate right.
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