Hamas leader Haniyeh to remain outside Gaza 'for up to a year'
The leader of the Palestinian movement Hamas will remain outside the Gaza Strip for up to a year, a senior official said Tuesday.
The Islamist group Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip, which is besieged and blockaded by Israel, since 2007.
Ismail Haniyeh left Gaza in December on his first major foreign tour since taking over as the group's leader in 2017.
He has since visited Turkey, Egypt, and Malaysia, as well as Iran, for the funeral of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, who was killed by a US air strike in Iraq.
"Haniyeh will remain abroad and continue to run Hamas until he has completed all the tasks and all the goals of his foreign tour," the movement's deputy chief Khalil al-Hayya told journalists.
The trip could last up to a year, he said.
Israel has launched three major wars against the Gaza Strip since Hamas took control, but an uneasy truce is currently in place.
Haniyeh is currently visiting the Gulf state of Qatar, which has provided humanitarian aid to Gaza on a regular basis.
The Hamas leader left Gaza via Egypt, the only state apart from Israel to border the Palestinian enclave.
Hayya admitted that Haniyeh's Iran visit had caused tensions with Egypt, which is allied with Iran's regional rival Saudi Arabia.
"Our brothers in Egypt rebuked us for visiting Iran, but [Hamas] has its own independent stance," Hayya said, saying the visit strengthened "the relationship between Hamas and Iran".
Ismail Haniyeh became prime minister of the Palestinian Authority in 2006, after Hamas won Palestinian elections. In 2007, following conflict between Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, Hamas took over the Gaza Strip and Abbas dismissed Haniyeh.
However, Hamas refused to recognise the dismissal and Haniyeh remained as the prime minister of an unrecognised Gaza-based Hamas-led Palestinian government.
Abbas appointed another government in the West Bank which was recognised by the international community.
In 2014, Haniyeh resigned from his post as prime minister following an agreement to set up a unity government with Fatah.
In 2017, he became chairman of Hamas' political bureau.