Khalil Hayieh, a member of Hamas’s political bureau, was elected as Sanwar’s deputy.
Sanwar was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1989 for killing Palestinians suspected of collaboration, however the new leader was freed during the Shalit deal in 2011 which witnessed the exchange of hundreds of terrorists and political prisoners for the return of captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
Sanwar, who has developed a reputation as being among the most radical in Hamas, is seen as being the link between the military and political wing in the terror group.
In 2011, following his release, Sanwar vowed that he would persevere until he freed by force all of Hamas’s remaining prisoners in Israel, and maintained that the terrorist organisation’s military wing should continue to kidnap more IDF soldiers in order to release more Palestinian prisoners.
Kobi Michael, a former head of the Palestinian Desk at Israel’s Ministry for Strategic Affairs stated that Sanwar represents “one of the most radical and extreme lines of Hamas”. He continued: “the idea that he was elected is a very dangerous and concerning indication of the destabilisation of the region”.
Palestinians who have met Sanwar have described him as an extremist, even in the context of Hamas, and as a leader who speaks in apocalyptic terms about Israel.
Hamas’s rocket fire endangers more than five million citizens in Israel – over 70% of the country’s population.