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Khaled Mashaal
خالد مشعل
Khaled Mashal, 20 January 2009
Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau
Assumed office
Personal details
Born 28 May 1956(1956-05-28) (age 66)
Silwad, West Bank
Nationality Palestinian
Political party Hamas
Residence Doha, Qatar Meshall family
Alma mater Kuwait University
Stenden University
Religion Sunni Islam

Khaled Mashal, (Arabic language: خالد مشعلKhālid Mashʿal, Levantine Arabic: [xaːled meʃʕal], born 28 May 1956) is a Palestinian political leader and the leader of the Hamas political bureau since the Israeli assassination of Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi in 2004.[1] After the founding of Hamas in 1987, Mashal came to lead the Kuwaiti branch of the organization.[1] He moved from Kuwait to Jordan in 1991. Since the expulsion of the Hamas leadership from Jordan in August 1999, Mashal lived in Qatar before moving to the Syrian capital of Damascus in 2001. He returned to Qatar in 2012 as a result of the Syrian civil war.

Early life and education

Mashal was born in Silwad, a village north of Ramallah, in 1956.[2] He attended Silwad Elementary School until the 1967 Six-Day War. His father moved the family to Kuwait afterwards for financial reasons. Mashal joined the Muslim Brotherhood in 1971.[1] Mashal earned a bachelor of science degree in Physics from Kuwait University.

Membership with Hamas

While at Kuwait University, Mashal headed the Islamic Justice (qa’imat al-haq al-islamiyya) list in the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) elections in 1977. The basis for the Islamic Justice list was the Palestinian Islamic movement, as part of the Muslim Brotherhood. After the cancellation of the GUPS elections, Mashal established the Islamic League for Palestinian Students (al-rabita al-islamiyya li talabat filastin) in 1980.[3] Mashal was a teacher in Kuwait from 1978 to 1984. He was married in 1980 and is the father of three daughters and four sons.[4] In 1983, the Palestinian Islamic movement convened an internal, closed conference in an Arab state. It included delegates from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Palestinian refugees from various Arab states. It was an important milestone as it laid the foundation for the creation of Hamas. Mashal was part of the leadership of the project to build a Palestinian Islamic movement from its inception. After 1984, he devoted himself to the project on a full-time basis. Mashal lived in Kuwait until the 1991 Gulf War. When Iraq invaded Kuwait, he moved to Jordan and began working directly with Hamas. He has been a member of Hamas' Political Bureau since its inception and became its chairman in 1996.

Assassination attempt

On 25 September 1997, Mashal was the target of an assassination attempt carried out by the Israeli Mossad under orders from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his security cabinet. The assassination was intended as retaliation to the 1997 Mahane Yehuda Market Bombings. At the time of the assassination attempt Mashal was considered Hamas' Jordanian branch chief. Two Mossad agents carrying fake Canadian passports entered Jordan, where Mashal was living. The Mossad agents waited at the entrance of the Hamas offices in Amman. As Mashal walked into his office, one of the agents came up from behind and held a device to Mashal's left ear that transmitted a fast-acting poison.[5] Soon afterward the two Israeli agents were captured.[6]

Immediately after the incident, Jordan's King Hussein demanded that Benjamin Netanyahu turn over the antidote for the poison, threatening to sever diplomatic relations and to try the detained Israeli agents.[6] At first Netanyahu refused, but the incident quickly grew in political significance. As Israeli-Jordanian relations deteriorated rapidly, with King Hussein threatening to void the historic 1994 peace between the two countries should Meshaal die,[7] U.S President Bill Clinton intervened and compelled Netanyahu to hand it over.[8] The head of Mossad, Danny Yatom, flew to Jordan, with the prime minister's consent, bringing with him an antidote to treat Mashal.[9] However, doctors at the King Hussein Medical Center, where Meshaal lay in a coma, had already administered the same antidote—naloxone (Narcan), an anti-opioid—after observing Meshaal's symptoms to be consistent with an opioid overdose.[7]

The antidote likely saved his life.[6] After the incident, Meshaal told Third Way magazine: "Israeli threats have one of two effects: some people are intimidated, but others become more defiant and determined. I am one of the latter."[10] Although the governments of Israel and Jordan both denied that prisoner-exchange negotiations were held, the spiritual leader of Hamas, Ahmed Yassin, was released from Israeli incarceration,[6] despite serving a life sentence,[11] immediately after both Israeli agents were deported to Israel by the Jordanian authorities. Afterward, more Palestinian and Jordanian prisoners were released by Israel.[6]


In 1999, Hamas was banned in Jordan. Jordan's King Abdullah accused Hamas of using Jordanian soil for illegal activities, and Hamas' allies of trying to disrupt the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel.[12] That year, Jordan arrested top Hamas leaders, including Mashal, Mousa Abu Marzook, and five others upon their arrival to Jordan from Iran. They were charged with being members of an organization outlawed by Jordan, for illegal possession of light weapons and hand grenades, fraud, and illegal fund raising.[13] Mashal was expelled from Jordan [14] and made his home initially in Qatar.[15] In 2001, he moved to Damascus, Syria.[1]

In February 2012, as the Syrian civil war progressed, Meshal left Syria and returned to Qatar.[16] Hamas distanced itself from the Syrian regime and shut down its offices in Damascus. Soon after, Mashal announced his support for the Syrian opposition, prompting Syrian state TV to issue a "withering attack" on him.[17] During this time he operated both in Doha and Cairo.[18]

In December 2012, following Operation Pillar of Defense and the truce between Israel and Hamas, Mashal announced that he would visit Gaza, after 37 years of exile.[19]

Representing Hamas internationally

Mashal ( Meshall) was a vocal critic of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, often refusing to follow directives issued by the PA regarding ceasefires with Israel. Mashal was considered a key force behind this policy, along with Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. However, Mashal did attend Arafat's funeral, in Cairo on 12 November 2004.

On 29 January 2006, after the surprise Hamas victory in the Palestinian legislative council elections, Mashal stated that Hamas had no plans to disarm. He declared that Hamas was ready to "unify the weapons of Palestinian factions, with Palestinian consensus, and form an army like any independent state... an army that protects our people against aggression". Later, on 13 February 2006, Mashal declared that Hamas would end the armed struggle against Israel if Israel withdrew to its pre-1967 borders and recognize a Palestinian right of return.[20] In a Reuters interview on 31 July 2006, Mashal warned Palestinians everywhere against attempts to separate the Lebanese and Palestinian issues.[21] He reaffirmed this stance in a 5 March 2008 interview with Al Jazeera English,[22][23] citing Hamas's signing of the 2005 Cairo Declaration and the National Reconciliation Document, and denied any rejectionist stance.[24] In an interview given to Sky News on 30 March 2008, Mashal said, that Hamas would not recognize Israel and supported Hamas suicide bombings saying it was "Palestinian resistance" reaction opposing "Israeli crimes".[25] Former US President Jimmy Carter met with Mashal on 21 April 2008 and reached an agreement that Hamas would accept the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, provided that such a state was ratified by the Palestinian people in a referendum. Hamas later offered a ten-year truce if Israel returned to the 1967 borders and recognized all Palestinian refugees' "right of return." Israel did not respond to the offer.[26][27] Later, on 27 May 2008, Mashal met the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, in Teheran and stated, "The Palestinian nation will continue its resistance despite all pressures and will not under any circumstances stop its jihad."[28] Hamas stated that it did not feel bound by the "Road Map to Peace" promoted by the Diplomatic Quartet, since Israel was not honoring its commitments to that 'road map'.[29] Hamas rejects the establishment of a "Palestinian entity [...] with no true sovereignty, whose principal duty is to maintain Israel's security."[22]

Prisoner swap

Mashal was involved in negotiating a prisoner exchange deal which released captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israel. Shalit was seized inside Israel near the southern Gaza Strip border by a coalition of Palestinian paramilitary groups, including Hamas, who had crossed the border through an underground tunnel near the Kerem Shalom border crossing.[30] On 10 July 2006, Mashal spoke authoritatively concerning the Israeli prisoner, stating Shalit was a prisoner of war and demanding a prisoner swap.[31]

On 18 June 2008, Israel announced a bilateral ceasefire with Hamas which formally began on 19 June 2008. The agreement was reached after talks between the two camps were conducted with Egyptian mediators in Cairo. As part of the ceasefire, Israel has agreed to resume limited commercial shipping across its border with Gaza, barring any breakdown of the tentative peace deal, and Hamas hinted that it would discuss the release of Shalit.[32] However, on 29 July 2008, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas voiced his strong opposition to the release of 40 Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament in exchange for Shalit.[33] On 2 October 2009, after the swap of 20 Palestinian prisoners for a proof-of-life video, Khaled Mashal vowed to capture more soldiers.[34]

On 18 October 2011, Shalit was released and handed over to Israel in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.[35]

Recent events

In 2010, the British magazine New Statesman listed Khaled Mashal at number 18 in the list of "The World's 50 Most Influential Figures 2010".[36] In February 2012, as the Syrian civil war progressed, Meshal left Syria and returned to Qatar.[16] Soon after, he announced his support for the Syrian opposition.[17] In 2012, he visited Gaza for the first time, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Hamas.[37][38]

Tour of the Gaza Strip

Mashal arrived in the Gaza Strip for the first time on 7 December 2012, beginning a four-day-long visit to the territory, for the 25th anniversary of Hamas's founding. Upon arriving at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, Mashal prostrated himself on the ground in prayer,[39] and was "moved to tears" by his reception.[40] Mashal referred to his visit as his "third birth" telling cheering crowds, "We politicians are in debt to the people of Gaza."[41]

Traveling through Gaza City on the first day of his tour, Mashal visited the home of the assassinated founder of Hamas, Ahmed Yassin, as well as the home of Ahmed Jabari, the slain deputy chief of Hamas’s military wing, who was assassinated at the start of the Israeli offensive in the previous month.[39] While coming together with Palestinian factional leaders and the families of Palestinians killed by or imprisoned in Israel, he further remarked, "The Palestinian national commitment is under the responsibility of everyone. Disagreement isn't religiously or logically correct, it will weaken us."[42]

Addressing tens of thousands of attendees of Hamas's 25th anniversary in Gaza City's Katiba Square, Mashal stated that armed resistance was the correct path for Palestinians to gain their rights and "liberate" Palestine.[43] He reiterated his movement’s refusal to concede any part of historical Palestine, stating "Palestine from the river to the sea, from the north to the south, is our land and we will never give up one inch."[39][40] However, he also lent support to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' successful initiative for international recognition of the State of Palestine at the United Nations, adding his belief that diplomacy helped the Palestinian cause, but was needed in conjunction with "resistance."[39] At the conclusion of his visit Mashal stressed that Palestinian reconciliation was critical, stating that "Gaza and the West Bank are two dear parts of the greater Palestinian homeland."[40]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Profile: Khaled Meshaal of Hamas. BBC News (8 February 2006). Retrieved on 17 August 2011
  2. "Navigating the Winds of Change". June 2012. pp. 36–38. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  3. Khalid Meshaal: The Making of a Palestinian Islamic Leader Interviewed by Mouin Rabbani, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol 37, no. 1 (Spring 2008), p. 59
  4. The Khaled Mishaal Interview, Part 1 of 7 Al Hayat. 3 December 2003
  5. McGeough, Paul (2009) Kill Khalid – The Failed Mossad Assassination of Khalid Mishaal and the Rise of Hamas. Quartet Books. ISBN 978-0-7043-7157-6. Page 184.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Hartley, Lea, Cossali and Rowe, 2004, p. 231.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Kill Him Silently". Al Jazeera World. Al Jazeera English. 30 January 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  8. CNN – Netanyahu in spotlight as assassination plot unravels at the Wayback Machine (archived March 8, 2008)
  9. Ciechanover Report on Mish'al Affair. Retrieved on 17 August 2011
  10. Robert Fox Robert Fox on the parallels between this assassination and the 1997 attempt to kill Khaled Meshaal. The First Post. 17 February 2010
  11. Schanzer, 2008, p. 45.
  12. "Jordan curbs Hamas", The Guardian, 22 November 1999
  13. Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad, by Matthew Levitt, Dennis Ross. Yale University Press, 2007. p. 45
  14. Hamas Leader Khaled Meshaal Time, 4 January 2009
  15. Reaction to Hamas crackdown. BBC News. 31 August 1999.
  16. 16.0 16.1 "Hamas political leaders leave Syria for Egypt and Qatar". BBC News. Retrieved 21 June 2012. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Syria Berates Hamas Chief, an Old Ally, on State TV". The New York Times, 2 October 2012.
  18. Harriet Sherwood; Abeer Ayyoub (7 December 2012). "Gaza welcomes exiled Hamas leader". Jerusalem and Rafah. Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  20. Peace with Israel for withdrawal to ’67 borders, ynetnews, 3 March 2006
  21. [1][dead link]
  22. 22.0 22.1 YouTube – Talk to Jazeera – Khaled Meshaal – 5 March 08 – Pt. 1
  23. YouTube – Talk to Jazeera – Khaled Meshaal – 5 March 08 – Pt. 2
  24. UN Doc 2005 Cairo Declaration
  25. Exclusive: Hamas Chief Talks To Sky. (2008-03-31). Retrieved on 17 August 2011
  26. New York Times 22 April 2008 "Carter Says Hamas and Syria Are Open For Peace" by Ethan Bronner
  27. MSNBC "Hamas Offers Israel 10-Year Truce" No Israeli response, but U.S. rejects it as 'no change'
  28. Supreme Leader Receives Hamas Political Leader.Khamenei, Retrieved on 17 August 2011
  29. Forbes. Forbes. Retrieved on 17 August 2011
  30. Q&A: Israeli soldier held in Gaza. BBC News. 25 June 2007
  31. Israel Rejects Hamas Terms For Exchange Of Prisoners AP, 11 July 2006
  32. Israel agrees to Gaza ceasefire. BBC News (2008-06-18). Retrieved on 17 August 2011
  33. Uri Blau. Abbas vows to dismantle PA if Israel frees Hamas prisoners for Shalit Ha'aretz. 30 July 2008
  34. Service, Haaretz. (21 August 2010) Hamas vows to try to kidnap more IDF soldiers – Haaretz Daily Newspaper| Israel News. Haaretz. Retrieved on 17 August 2011
  35. Hamas predicts new uprising if no peace progress. Asharq Alawsat newspaper.
  36. "18. Khaled Meshal – 50 People Who Matter 2010 |". New Statesman. Retrieved 14 October 2010. 
  37. "Palestinian Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal visits Gaza". 7 December 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  38. "After Kissing Ground Upon Entry Into Gaza for First Visit Hamas Terror Chief Promises Conquest of Jerusalem, Haifa". 7 December 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 39.3 Greenberg, Joel. Hamas leader Khaled Meshal says group will never recognize Israel. The Washington Post. 2012-12-08.
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2 Al-Mughrabi, Nidal. Hamas chief ends Gaza visit with call for Palestinian unity. Reuters. 2012-12-10.
  41. Mashaal: Today Gaza, tomorrow Jerusalem. Ma'an News Agency. 2012-12-09.
  42. "Chief of Hamas Political Bureau Khaled Mashal Visits Gaza",10 December 2012,Anadolu Agency, Turkish Weekly.
  43. Tovah Lazaroff and Lahav Harkov JPOST.COM

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