Nizar Awadallah

Nizar Awadallah is a longtime member of Hamas who was a close associate of Hamas co-founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.“Mapping Palestinian Politics – Nizar Awadallah,” European Council on Foreign Relations, accessed July 7, 2021, https://ecfr.eu/special/mapping_palestinian_politics/nizar_awadallah/. He formerly headed Hamas’s advisory shura council and ran in a March 2021 internal Hamas election to lead Hamas’s political bureau in the Gaza Strip.Agence France-Presse, “Hamas To Pick New Gaza Chief This Week: Party Sources,” Barron’s, March 9, 2021, https://www.barrons.com/news/hamas-to-pick-new-gaza-chief-this-week-party-sources-01615298711?tesla=y;  Khaled Abu Toameh, “Hamas leader Sinwar ousted in secret vote - report,” Jerusalem Post, March 9, 2021, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/hamas-elects-new-leader-in-gaza-661454. Awadallah was initially declared the winner of that contest, but ultimately lost in a runoff vote.Nidal al-Mughrabi, “Sinwar re-elected as Hamas chief in Gaza,” Reuters, March 10, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN2B2259.

Prior to the official formation of Hamas, Awadallah participated in and eventually led Hamas precursor Al-Mujama Al-Islami, the social, religious, and charity organization that Yassin created in 1973.David Hacham, “Hamas elections expose intergenerational power struggle,” Jewish News Syndicate, March 25, 2021, https://www.jns.org/opinion/hamas-elections-expose-intergenerational-power-struggle/; Andrew Higgins, “How Israel Helped to Spawn Hamas,” Wall Street Journal, January 24, 2009, https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB123275572295011847. Awadallah was allegedly involved in Mujama Al-Islami’s military wing, the Mujahadin al-Filastayeen (“Palestinian Holy Warriors”). He later joined Hamas’s armed faction, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, during the First Intifada in the 1980s.David Hacham, “Hamas elections expose intergenerational power struggle,” Jewish News Syndicate, March 25, 2021, https://www.jns.org/opinion/hamas-elections-expose-intergenerational-power-struggle/.After Israel killed Mujahadin al-Filastayeen founder Salah Shehadeh in 1987, Awadallah reportedly took over the faction. He was subsequently arrested and spent time in and out of Israeli prisons between 1989 and 1996. Israel bombed Awadallah’s home in Gaza in 2009 and 2014 during conflicts with Hamas.David Hacham, “Hamas elections expose intergenerational power struggle,” Jewish News Syndicate, March 25, 2021, https://www.jns.org/opinion/hamas-elections-expose-intergenerational-power-struggle/; Israel Hayom, “Who are you, Nizar Awadallah? The man who could replace Hamwar led by Hamas - Profile | Israel today,” Limited Times, March 9, 2021, https://newsrnd.com/news/2021-03-09-%0A---who-are-you--nizar-awadallah--the-man-who-could-replace-hamwar-led-by-hamas---profile-%7C-israel-today%0A--.r1rYj4Sm_.html.

Awadallah joined Hamas’s political bureau in 2009.“Mapping Palestinian Politics – Nizar Awadallah,” European Council on Foreign Relations, accessed July 7, 2021, https://ecfr.eu/special/mapping_palestinian_politics/nizar_awadallah/. He has since represented Hamas in high-level international negotiations. On June 25, 2006, a group of Palestinian terrorists representing multiple groups, reportedly including Hamas, crossed the Gaza border into Israel, killed two soldiers, and captured 19-year-old Corporal Gilad Shalit.Tim Butcher, “Soldier Kidnapped and Two Killed in Gaza Tunnel Attack,” Telegraph (London), June 26, 2006, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/1522370/Soldier-kidnapped-and-two-killed-in-Gaza-tunnel-attack.html; Steven Erlanger, “Tensions Rise After Israeli Is Kidnapped,” New York Times, June 26, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/26/world/middleeast/26cnd-mideast.html. Awadallah was part of the Hamas team that negotiated an October 2011 prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas for Shalit in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.David Hacham, “Hamas elections expose intergenerational power struggle,” Jewish News Syndicate, March 25, 2021, https://www.jns.org/opinion/hamas-elections-expose-intergenerational-power-struggle/; Jeffrey Heller and Nidal al-Mughrabi, “Israel and Hamas Agree Prisoner Swap to Free Shalit,” Reuters, October 11, 2011, http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/11/us-israel-palestinians-shalit-idUSTRE79A58R20111011. Awadallah has also negotiated between Hamas and its main Palestinian rival Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.“Hamas Political Bureau meets in Cairo,” Middle East Monitor, February 17, 2014, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20140217-hamas-political-bureau-meets-in-cairo/. Awadallah also participated in the 2016 reconciliation talks between Hamas and Egypt after Egypt accused Hamas of cooperating with the Muslim Brotherhood in assassinating former Egyptian Attorney General Hisham Barakat.“Hamas official: Saudi mediated delegation’s visit to Egypt,” Middle East Monitor, March 14, 2016, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20160314-hamas-official-saudi-mediated-delegations-visit-to-egypt/. Awadallah remains a high-level member of Hamas’s international delegations, traveling with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to Hamas-friendly countries such as Qatar, Turkey, and Malaysia in 2019 and 2020.“Senior Hamas delegation meets with Qatar emir,” Middle East Monitor, December 17, 2019, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20191217-senior-hamas-delegation-meets-with-qatar-emir/.

In March 2021, Awadallah ran in a secretive internal Hamas election against Yahya Sinwar to replace him as Hamas’s political bureau chief in Gaza. Hamas officials Mahmoud Zahar, Fathi Hammad, and Ziyad al-Thatha also ran. On March 9, reports emanated from Gaza that Awadallah had won the election. However, later that day some Palestinian sources told Israeli media that the vote was not yet final.Agence France-Presse, “Hamas To Pick New Gaza Chief This Week: Party Sources,” Barron’s, March 9, 2021, https://www.barrons.com/news/hamas-to-pick-new-gaza-chief-this-week-party-sources-01615298711?tesla=y;  Khaled Abu Toameh, “Hamas leader Sinwar ousted in secret vote - report,” Jerusalem Post, March 9, 2021, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/hamas-elects-new-leader-in-gaza-661454. After news of Sinwar’s loss spread, some Hamas officials claimed there would be a second round of voting.Agence France-Presse, “Hamas To Pick New Gaza Chief This Week: Party Sources,” Barron’s, March 9, 2021, https://www.barrons.com/news/hamas-to-pick-new-gaza-chief-this-week-party-sources-01615298711?tesla=y;  Khaled Abu Toameh, “Hamas leader Sinwar ousted in secret vote - report,” Jerusalem Post, March 9, 2021, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/hamas-elects-new-leader-in-gaza-661454. On March 10, Sinwar won re-election in a run-off vote.Nidal al-Mughrabi, “Sinwar re-elected as Hamas chief in Gaza,” Reuters, March 10, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN2B2259. Following his loss to Sinwar, Awadallah was scheduled to run in the May 2021 Palestinian parliamentary elections on Hamas’s “Jerusalem is Our Promise” list of candidates.“Mapping Palestinian Politics – Nizar Awadallah,” European Council on Foreign Relations, accessed July 7, 2021, https://ecfr.eu/special/mapping_palestinian_politics/nizar_awadallah/. The elections were to be the first Palestinian legislative elections since Hamas’s electoral victory in 2006. However, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas indefinitely postponed the elections on April 29, 2021, citing Israel’s refusal to allow Palestinians in east Jerusalem to vote. Local analysts, however, suspected the delay was because Abbas feared a Hamas political victory.Adnan Abu Amer, “Hamas rallies opposition to Abbas after elections pushed back,” Al-Monitor, April 29, 2021, https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2021/05/hamas-rallies-opposition-abbas-after-elections-pushed-back; “Fatah intensifies efforts to postpone elections fearing a Hamas win,” Middle East Monitor, April 20, 2021, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20210420-fatah-intensifies-efforts-to-postpone-elections-fearing-a-hamas-win/; “Hamas: Delaying election will affect future of Palestine reconciliation,” April 28, 2021, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20210428-hamas-delaying-election-will-affect-future-of-palestine-reconciliation/.

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