Internal Hamas elections have resulted in Khaled Mashaal being elected as head of the organization’s overseas leader, reports said on Monday. He will replace incumbent Maher Salah.

Mashaal previously served as head of Hamas’s overall political bureau—the top post in the Islamist organization—until four years ago, when he was replaced by Ismael Haniyeh.

The appointment could now clear the path for Haniyeh to serve a second term as head of the overall political bureau, according to news reports.

The elections follow Hamas votes for other key positions. In recent weeks, Yihya Sinwar won an internal vote for a second term as head of the organization in the Gaza Strip, narrowly beating challenger Nizar Awadallah, described by Hamas observers as a representative of the organization’s old guard.

According to Israel Defense Forces Col. David Hacham (ret.), a former adviser on Arab affairs to seven Israeli Ministers of Defense, it took four rounds for Sinwar to assure a majority, meaning that he came close to being defeated after just a single term.

Hacham said Sinwar has faced internal criticism over his policies in Gaza, such as his willingness to enter into a long-term truce with Israel and his failure to significantly improve the quality of life for an estimated 2 million Gazans.

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