A Hamas source said Tuesday that a letter purporting to show that Mahmoud al-Zahar, one of the founders of the terror group, had resigned from its political leadership in the Gaza Strip was misinformation circulated by rivals.
The unnamed source spoke to the SHMS news agency after reports said al-Zahar had stepped down.
The source said al-Zahar was still “performing his duties” at the political office and “has not submitted his regulation as some claim.”
“Those who are behind this news are hostile parties, seeking to get rid of al-Zahar,” the source said, urging media outlets to only trust information from official sources and “not be dragged along by rumors.”
According to reports, al-Zahar filed a letter in which he cited “special and personal reasons” for quitting.
On Monday, al-Zahar spoke at an event to mark the anniversary of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in August 2005. Two years after Israel left, Hamas seized control of the territory from the Palestinian Authority.
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The politician, 77, was born in Gaza City in 1945. He played a key role in setting up Hamas in 1987 and was briefly detained by Israel in 1988. In 1992 he was exiled by Israel to Lebanon, but eventually returned to the Gaza Strip.
Israel bombed his Gaza home in 2003, killing his eldest son, Khaled, but only lightly injuring al-Zahar. Another son, Hussam, a member of the Hamas military wing, was killed in a 2008 Israeli strike on Hamas operatives. Al-Zahar has two daughters as well.
In 2006 al-Zahar was elected as a Hamas representative in the Palestinian Legislative Council, where he has remained ever since. He was foreign minister from 2006 to 2007.
Last year al-Zahar told Britain’s Sky News that Israel has no right to exist, and said the terror group’s strategy was to target Israeli population centers with rocket fire from Gaza. The interview came after a ceasefire that ended 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas.