Ismail Hanieh, a leading figure of Hamas, was prime minister of the national unity government formed in March 2007, having been prime minister and minister of youth and sports in the government formed by Hamas in March 2006.
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Hanieh was born in 1962 at Shati Refugee Camp in Gaza to a family originally from Asqalan (now Ashkelon, Israel).
primary education at UNRWA schools and his
secondary education at the religious al-Azhar Institute in Gaza.
studied Arabic Literature at the Islamic University of Gaza
, where he
became head of the student council and was active in the Islamic Bloc (the student wing of Hamas).
graduated in 1987, just as the first Intifada erupted in Gaza, and was detained by the Israeli authorities for participating in protests in 1987, and again in 1988, just as Hamas was emerging in Gaza as a leading resistance movement.
The following year he
was arrested again and sentenced to three years in prison before being deported with 415 other activists to Marj al-Zuhhur in South Lebanon.
He was allowed to return to Gaza in December 1993 and was appointed dean of the Islamic University.
was not in favor of the Hamas boycott of the 1996 elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council
(PLC) and initially put his
name forward as an independent candidate, before backing down in January 1996.
After Sheikh Yassin was released from prison in 1997, Hanieh was appointed as his assistant.
Because of his close relationship with Sheikh Yassin, Hanieh gained increasing prominence within the movement and became Hamas' representative to the Palestinian Authority (PA).
In September 2003 Hanieh
survived an assassination attempt while accompanying Sheikh Yassin when an Israeli aircraft bombed an apartment bloc in Gaza.
However, Palestinian sources said that Hanieh
was appointed to the three-person â€œcollective leadershipâ€ of Hamas along with Mahmoud al-Zahar and Said Siam.
Although al-Zahar is thought to be the most senior of those leaders, Hanieh was chosen to lead the campaign for Hamas for the January 2006 elections and became prime minister when Hamas won the majority of seats in the PLC.
On becoming prime minister, Hanieh
participated in negotiations on a coalition with the former ruling Fateh party and other factions.
After the negotiations failed, Hanieh
was forced to name a cabinet primarily consisting of Hamas members and technocrats.
outlined the Hamas administrationâ€™s program, Hanieh
urged the US and EU
not to carry out their threats of cutting funding to the PA.
stressed that Palestinians were entitled to continue their struggle for independence, but at the same time claimed that he
wanted to hold talks with international mediators about solving the conflict.