Hamas appoints first female minister in reshuffle

Gaza City, Palestinian Territories (ANTARA News/AFP) - Hamas leader Ismail Haniya reshuffled his Gaza-based cabinet on Thursday, appointing a female minister to his government for the first time.

The reorganisation, which the Islamist group announced in a statement, leaves the 15-member cabinet largely unchanged, and does not bring members of any other Palestinian political groups into the government.

It creates for the first time a Hamas ministry for national affairs and a women`s ministry, to be headed by Jamila al-Shanti, the first female minister to be appointed by the Islamist group.

The reshuffle also appoints Mohammed Awad to the post of foreign minister, the first time the post has been filled since 2007.

The Hamas government is largely unrecognised outside of the coastal enclave, and its control does not extend beyond the Gaza Strip.

Longstanding divisions between Hamas and Fatah boiled over in June 2007, a year after the Islamist party won legislative elections, when Hamas seized power in Gaza after a week of fierce street battles, confining Abbas`s Palestinian Authority to the occupied West Bank.

Successive rounds of reconciliation talks between the two sides have failed to achieve an agreement on a unity government. (*)

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