Khaled Meshaal is the former chief of Hamas’s political bureau and current leader of Hamas’s diaspora office.Nidal Al-mughrabi, “Hamas elects former chief Meshaal to head diaspora office,” Reuters, April 12, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/hamas-elects-former-chief-meshaal-head-diaspora-office-2021-04-12/; Aaron Boxerman, “Khaled Mashaal tapped as Hamas’s diaspora director,” Times of Israel, April 12, 2021, https://www.timesofisrael.com/khaled-mashaal-tapped-as-hamass-international-director/. He stepped down after two terms as Hamas’s political chief following the May 6, 2017, election of deputy Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh as his successor.“Ismail Haniyeh elected new political head of Hamas,” Times of Israel, May 6, 2017, http://www.timesofisrael.com/ismail-haniyeh-elected-new-head-of-hamas/?utm_source=The+Times+of+Israel+Daily+Edition&utm_campaign=0dd24464cd-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_05_05&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_adb46cec92-0dd24464cd-55118405. Meshaal assumed leadership of the political bureau in 2004 following the assassinations of Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin and his successor, Abdel Aziz Rantisi. During his 13 years of leadership, Meshaal oversaw Hamas’s transition from a purely terrorist organization into a terrorist/political hybrid.“Khaled Meshaal Fast Facts,” CNN, October 9, 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/09/world/meast/khaled-meshaal-fast-facts/index.html. In April 2021, Meshaal was elected to lead Hamas’s diaspora office and named second-in-command of the terror group.Nidal Al-mughrabi, “Hamas elects former chief Meshaal to head diaspora office,” Reuters, April 12, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/hamas-elects-former-chief-meshaal-head-diaspora-office-2021-04-12/; Aaron Boxerman, “Khaled Mashaal tapped as Hamas’s diaspora director,” Times of Israel, April 12, 2021, https://www.timesofisrael.com/khaled-mashaal-tapped-as-hamass-international-director/.
Despite Hamas’s control of Gaza, Meshaal has never lived there. He resides in Qatar, from where he acted as the public face of Hamas for more than a decade. Reports in January 2015 speculated that Qatar would expel Meshaal and other Hamas leaders as part of a plan to align with its regional allies in the fight against terrorism.“Report: Qatar to banish Hamas’ Meshaal, who will relocate to Turkey,” Jerusalem Post, January 6, 2015, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Report-Qatar-to-banish-Hamas-political-bureau-chief-Mashaal-who-will-relocate-to-Turkey-386808. Qatar denied the reports and Qatar’s top diplomat called Meshaal a “dear guest” in his country.Abdullah Rebhy, “Qatar denies it plans to expel Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal,” Associated Press, January 12, 2015, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/04fc2928f3e04a77a1fdd45c24085397/qatar-denies-it-plans-expel-hamas-leader-khaled-mashaal.
Reports emerged in March 2016 that Meshaal was struggling to maintain power. According to Israeli analysts, Meshaal faced a challenge to his authority from Yahya Sinwar, a co-founder of Hamas’s Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades who had reportedly orchestrated power shifts within the Gaza-based Hamas leadership. Sinwar has advocated closer ties with Iran, which has continued funding the al-Qassam Brigades while cutting funding to Hamas as a whole. Meshaal, however, tried to align the organization with Saudi Arabia and Egypt.Avi Issacharoff, “Inside Hamas, a bitter and very personal battle for control,” Times of Israel, March 19, 2016, http://www.timesofisrael.com/inside-hamas-a-bitter-and-very-personal-battle-for-control/;
Avi Issacharoff, “Rising new Hamas leader is all too familiar to Israel,” Times of Israel, December 18, 2015, http://www.timesofisrael.com/rising-new-hamas-leader-is-all-too-familiar-to-israel/.
On May 6, 2017, Hamas’s Shura Council elected Haniyeh to succeed Meshaal.“Ismail Haniyeh elected new political head of Hamas,” Times of Israel, May 6, 2017, http://www.timesofisrael.com/ismail-haniyeh-elected-new-head-of-hamas/?utm_source=The+Times+of+Israel+Daily+Edition&utm_campaign=0dd24464cd-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_05_05&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_adb46cec92-0dd24464cd-55118405. As one of his last acts in office, Meshaal announced Hamas’s new political program at the Sheraton Hotel in Doha on May 1, 2017. Meshaal introduced the new political document as an updated guide to Hamas’s policies, though it did not replace the group’s 1988 charter. While the document accepts the idea of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines, Hamas withholds recognition of Israel and continues to embrace “armed resistance” against Israel in its pursuit of the “liberation” of Palestine “from the river to the sea.”“A Document of General Principles & Policies,” Hamas Media Office, accessed May 2, 2017, http://hamas.ps/ar/uploads/documents/06c77206ce934064ab5a901fa8bfef44.pdf;
“New Hamas policy document ‘aims to soften image,’” BBC News, May 1, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-39744551.
In his farewell address, Meshaal said that Haniyeh and Hamas’s political bureau would continue to focus on the “key” issues of “liberation, Jerusalem, prisoners, right of refugees, lifting the siege imposed on Gaza, and achieving internal unity.”“Khalid Meshal's speech during the inauguration of the new head of Hamas political bureau, Ismail Haniya ( an excerpt),” Hamas website, May 6, 2017, http://hamas.ps/en/post/694/khalid-meshal-s-speech-during-the-inauguration-of-the-new-head-of-hamas-political-bureau-ismail-haniya-(-an-excerpt).
In March 2021, Hamas began holding secretive internal elections. Meshaal mounted a challenge to Haniyeh for leadership of Hamas’s political bureau. On April 12, Hamas elected Meshaal to lead its office in the diaspora and named second-in-command of Hamas. Haniyeh remained Hamas’s overall leader. Meshaal remains based in Qatar.Nidal Al-mughrabi, “Hamas elects former chief Meshaal to head diaspora office,” Reuters, April 12, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/hamas-elects-former-chief-meshaal-head-diaspora-office-2021-04-12/; Aaron Boxerman, “Khaled Mashaal tapped as Hamas’s diaspora director,” Times of Israel, April 12, 2021, https://www.timesofisrael.com/khaled-mashaal-tapped-as-hamass-international-director/.
On October 7, 2023, Hamas launched a mass attack on Israel, sending hundreds of fighters into Israeli towns and military bases within 15 miles of the Gaza border while simultaneously launching a rocket barrage toward Israel.Josef Federman and Issam Adwan, “Hamas surprise attack out of Gaza stuns Israel and leaves hundreds dead in fighting, retaliation,” Associated Press, October 7, 2023, https://apnews.com/article/israel-palestinians-gaza-hamas-rockets-airstrikes-tel-aviv-11fb98655c256d54ecb5329284fc37d2; Josef Federman and Issam Adwan, “Hamas surprise attack out of Gaza stuns Israel and leaves hundreds dead in fighting, retaliation,” Associated Press, October 7, 2023, https://apnews.com/article/israel-palestinians-gaza-hamas-rockets-airstrikes-tel-aviv-11fb98655c256d54ecb5329284fc37d2. Hamas labeled the attack Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.“Operation Al Aqsa Flood,” Hamas Online Telegram channel, October 7, 2023. Hamas killed more than 1,400 Israelis and took hostage approximately 240 Israeli civilians and soldiers in Gaza.Peter Saidel and Dov Lieber, “Hamas Took More Than 200 Hostages From Israel. Here’s What to Know.,” Wall Street Journal, November 6, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/hamas-hostages-israel-gaza-41432124. Since the attack, Meshaal has been vocal in international media defending Hamas and calling for the Muslim world to join Hamas in its fight against Israel. On October 11, Meshaal called for a Muslim uprising across the world against Israel on October 13, particularly in countries bordering Israel. He called on Muslims and all those who teach jihad to turn theory into violent practice.“Former Hamas chief calls for protests, neighbours to join war against Israel,” Reuters, October 11, 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/former-hamas-chief-calls-protests-neighbours-join-war-against-israel-2023-10-11/. Speaking to the Saudi-based Al-Arabiya news network on October 19, Meshaal called the October 7 attack a calculated move by Hamas, which understood the consequences. He revealed Hamas was holding hostage multiple Israeli soldiers in Gaza. He also denied that Hamas intentionally targeted civilians and accused the West of creating false equivalencies between Hamas and ISIS.“Exclusive: ‘Israel will kill us, whether we resist or not,’ says former Hamas chief,” Al Arabiya, last updated October 21, 2023, https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/10/19/-Israel-is-killing-us-whether-we-resist-or-not-says-former-Hamas-chief. Contradicting Meshaal’s claims, written orders recovered from the bodies of dead Hamas fighters as well as video testimonials of Hamas attackers showed that Hamas fighters had been directed to kill as many people as possible.Dov Lieber and David S. Cloud, “Hamas Fighters’ Orders: ‘Kill as Many People as Possible,’” Wall Street Journal, October 14, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/hamas-fighters-orders-kill-as-many-people-as-possible-2a6abff8.
- Extremist entity
- Type(s) of Organization:
- Political, religious, social service provider, terrorist, violent
- Ideologies and Affiliations:
- Islamist, jihadist, Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated group, pan-Islamist, Qutbist, Sunni
- Head of Hamas’s Diaspora Office; Deputy Leader; Former Chief of Hamas’s Political Bureau
Hamas is a U.S.-designated terrorist organization which has killed hundreds of Israeli citizens, as well as Americans, in suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks. Hamas has governed the Gaza Strip since it violently expelled the Palestinian Authority in 2007.
Australia designated “Khaled Meshaal” on November 21, 2003.“Consolidated List,” Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, last updated September 12, 2017, http://dfat.gov.au/international-relations/security/sanctions/pages/consolidated-list.aspx#list.
The United Kingdom proscribed “Khalid Mishaal” on March 24, 2004.“Consolidated List of Financial Sanctions Targets in the UK,” U.K. Home Office, last updated September 12, 2017, http://hmt-sanctions.s3.amazonaws.com/sanctionsconlist.htm.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated “Khalid Mishaal” as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on August 22, 2003.“U.S. Designates Five Charities Funding Hamas and Six Senior Hamas Leaders as Terrorist Entities,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, August 22, 2003, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/js672.aspx.
Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.
On October 27, 2018, domestic terrorist Robert D. Bowers carried out an anti-Semitic attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. He fired on congregants as they gathered for worship, killing 11 people and wounding six others.