Khaled Mashal

Khaled Mashal
Khaled Mashal
خالد مشعل
Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau
In office
1996 – present
Personal details
Born 28 May 1956 (1956-05-28) (age 55)
Silwad, West Bank
Nationality Palestinian
Political party Hamas
Residence Damascus, Syria
Alma mater Kuwait University
Religion Islam

Khaled Mashal, also known as Khaled Mashaal, Khaled Meshaal, and Khalid Mish'al, (Arabic: خالد مشعل‎, xaːlid maʃʕal; born May 28 1956) has been the main leader of Hamas since the assassination of Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi in 2004.[1] In addition, Mashal heads the Syrian branch of the political bureau of Hamas.[2]

Mashal was born in Silwad, a village north of Ramallah and moved to Jordan in 1967. While attending Kuwait University, Mashal, as an Islamic student leader, challenged the dominance of Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization, participating in the foundation of the Islamic Haqq Bloc, which competed with Fatah for leadership of the General Union of Palestinian Students in Kuwait. After the founding of Hamas in 1987, Mashal came to lead the Kuwaiti branch of the organization.[1] Mashal 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. In 2010, The British Magazine New Statesman Listed Khaled Mashal at number 18th in the list of "The World's 50 Most Influential Figures 2010".[3]


Early life and membership with Hamas

Khaled Mashal was born in the village of Silwad, north of Ramallah, then ruled by Jordan. Mashal attended Silwad Elementary School until the 1967 Six-Day War and the occupation of the West Bank by Israel. His father moved the family to Kuwait afterward for financial reasons. Mashal holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from Kuwait University. Mashal joined the Muslim Brotherhood in 1971.[4]

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.[2] Mashal taught in the Kuwait schools from 1978 to 1984. He was married in 1980 and is the father of three daughters and four sons.[5]

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 the 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 Mashal devoted himself to the project on a full-time basis. During this period Mashal remained in Kuwait.[2]

Mashal lived in Kuwait until the 1991 Gulf War. When Iraq invaded Kuwait, Mashal 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 September 25, 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.

Description of the Operation

On September 25, 1997, the Mossad agents waited at the entrance of the Hamas offices in Amman, with the intention of assassinating Khalid Mashal. At the time of the assassination attempt Mashal was considered Hamas' Jordanian branch chief. Two Mossad agents carrying Canadian passports entered Jordan, where Mashal was living. 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 lethal nerve toxin, levofentanyl.[6][7][8]

However, immediately afterwards, Khalid Mish'al's personal chauffeur and a security guard intervened. The chauffeur, who saw what was happening, hit the agent with a newspaper on his hand. The security guard began to chase the agents, and was able to note the license plate number of the car in which they had escaped, and boarded a passing car in order to pursue them. The agents were unaware that they were being followed. After some 300 meters, they stopped their car and left it. The security guard chased them and, with the help of a plainclothes policeman, managed to overpower and apprehend them. The agents were driven by the policeman and the security guard in a taxi to the nearest police station, and placed under arrest.

Immediately after the incident, Jordan's King Hussein demanded that Benjamin Netanyahu turn over the antidote for the nerve toxin. At first Netanyahu refused, but as the incident grew in political significance, American President Bill Clinton intervened and compelled Netanyahu to turn over the antidote.[9] The Head of the Mossad, Danny Yatom, flew to Jordan, with the Prime Minister's consent, bringing with him an antidote to treat Khalid Mish'al.[10]

Mish'al was given the antidote, thus saving his life. In the negotiations subsequently conducted for the release of the agents, an agreement was reached with the Jordanian authorities whereby, in exchange for the release of Shaykh Yasin, the founder and spiritual leader of Hamas, and a number of other prisoners held in Israel, they would release the Israeli agents and allow them to return to Israel.

After the incident Mish'al 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."[11]


In 1999, Hamas was banned in Jordan. Jordan's King Abdullah accused Hamas of using Jordanian soil for illegal activities, and Hamas' allies for trying to disrupt the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel as reasons for the decision.[12] That year, Jordan arrested top Hamas leaders, including Khaled Mashaal, 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] Mashaal was expelled from Jordan [14] and has made his home in Qatar.[15] In 2001, he moved to Damascus, Syria where he currently resides.[4]

Representing Hamas internationally

Mashal 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. Mashal attended Arafat's funeral, alongside the Saudi royal family, in Cairo, Egypt, on November 12, 2004.

On January 29, 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 February 13, 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.[16] In a Reuters interview on July 31, 2006, Mashal warned Palestinians everywhere against attempts to separate the Lebanese and Palestinian issues.[17]

He reaffirmed this stance in a March 5, 2008 interview with Al Jazeera English,[18][19] citing Hamas's signing of the 2005 Cairo Declaration and the National Reconciliation Document, and denied any rejectionist stance.[20] In the March 30, 2008 interview to Sky News, Mashal said, that Hamas will not recognize Israel and supported Hamas suicide bombings saying it is "Palestinian resistance" reaction opposing "Israeli crimes".[21] Former US President and 2002 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jimmy Carter met with Mashal on April 21, 2008 and reached an agreement that Hamas would respect the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip areas seized by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967, provided that such a state is ratified by the Palestinian people in a referendum. Hamas later announced it would offer Israel a ten-year hudna ("truce") if it returned to its 1967 borders and recognized all Palestinian refugees' "right of return." Israel did not respond to the offer.[22][23] Later, on May 27, 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."[24] Hamas stated that it does not feel bound by the "Road Map to Peace" promoted by the Diplomatic Quartet, since in Hamas' view Israel is not honoring its commitments to that 'road map'.[25] Hamas rejects the establishment of a "Palestinian entity [...] with no true sovereignty, whose principal duty is to maintain Israel's security."[18]

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.[26] On July 10, 2006, Mashal spoke authoritatively concerning the Israeli prisoner, stating Shalit was a prisoner of war and demanding a prisoner swap.[27] On October 18th, 2011, Shalit was released and handed over to Israel in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners. [28]

On June 18, 2008, Israel announced a bilateral ceasefire with Hamas which formally began on June 19, 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.[29] However, on July 29, 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.[30] On October 2, 2009, after the swap of 20 Palestinian prisoners for a proof-of-life video, Khaled Mashal vowed to capture more soldiers.[31]


  1. ^ a b Profile: Khaled Meshaal of Hamas. BBC News (2006-02-08). Retrieved on 2011-08-17.
  2. ^ a b c Khalid Mashal: The Making of a Palestinian Islamic Leader Interviewed by Mouin Rabbani Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol 37, no. 1 (Spring 2008), p. 59
  3. ^ "18. Khaled Meshal – 50 People Who Matter 2010 |". New Statesman. Retrieved 14 October 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Profile: Khaled Meshaal of Hamas BBC News. 2006-02-08.
  5. ^ The Khaled Mishaal Interview, Part 1 of 7 Al Hayat. 2003-12-03.
  6. ^ Newsreal: Bibi the bungler Salon October 10, 2007
  7. ^ The Khaled Mishaal Interview (1 of 7) Al Hayat December 5, 2003
  8. ^ McGeough, Paul (2009) Kill Khalid – The Failed Mossad Assassination of Khalid Mishal and the Rise of Hamas. Quartet Books. ISBN 978 0 7043 7157 6. Page 184.
  9. ^ CNN – Netanyahu in spotlight as assassination plot unravels at the Wayback Machine (archived March 8, 2008)
  10. ^ Ciechanover Report on Mish'al Affair. Retrieved on 2011-08-17.
  11. ^ Robert Fox Robert Fox on the parallels between this assassination and the 1997 attempt to kill Khaled Mashal. The First Post. 17 February 2010
  12. ^ "Jordan curbs Hamas", The Guardian, November 22, 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 Mashaal Time, January 4, 2009
  15. ^ Reaction to Hamas crackdown. BBC News. 1999-08-31.
  16. ^ Peace with Israel for withdrawal to ’67 borders, ynetnews, March 3, 2006
  17. ^ [1][dead link]
  18. ^ a b YouTube – Talk to Jazeera – Khaled Meshaal – 05 Mar 08 – Pt. 1
  19. ^ YouTube – Talk to Jazeera – Khaled Meshaal – 05 Mar 08 – Pt. 2
  20. ^ UN Doc 2005 Cairo Declaration
  21. ^ Exclusive: Hamas Chief Talks To Sky. (2008-03-31). Retrieved on 2011-08-17.
  22. ^ New York Times 22 April 2008 "Carter Says Hamas and Syria Are Open For Peace" by Ethan Bronner
  23. ^ MSNBC "Hamas Offers Israel 10-Year Truce" No Israeli response, but U.S. rejects it as 'no change'
  24. ^ Supreme Leader Receives Hamas Political Leader. Retrieved on 2011-08-17.
  25. ^ Forbes. Forbes. Retrieved on 2011-08-17.
  26. ^ Q&A: Israeli soldier held in Gaza. BBC News. 2007-06-25.
  27. ^ Israel Rejects Hamas Terms For Exchange Of Prisoners AP, 11 July 2006
  28. ^ Hamas predicts new uprising if no peace progress. Asharq Alawsat Newspaper.
  29. ^ Middle East | Israel agrees to Gaza ceasefire. BBC News (2008-06-18). Retrieved on 2011-08-17.
  30. ^ Uri Blau. Abbas vows to dismantle PA if Israel frees Hamas prisoners for Shalit Ha'aretz. 2008-07-30.
  31. ^ Service, Haaretz. (2010-08-21) Hamas vows to try to kidnap more IDF soldiers – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News. Retrieved on 2011-08-17.

External links

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