Mr Haniyeh was selected on Saturday as Hamas politburo chief, replacing Khaled Mashaal, its longtime leader.
Over the years, Hamas had a leadership-in-exile that raised funds or courted political support from countries like Iran and Syria, while the Hamas military wing, Izzedine al-Qassam, attacked Israeli targets from Gaza and the West Bank.
Hamas is trying to rebrand itself as an Islamic national liberation movement, rather than a branch of the pan-Arab Muslim Brotherhood, which has been outlawed by Egypt.
Mr Haniya, 54, lives in Gaza, which Hamas has ruled since 2007, unlike Mr Meshaal, who lives in Qatar.
While its new policy document accepts the idea of a Palestinian state within territories occupied by Israel in the Six Day War of 1967, it continues to speak of liberating all of historic Palestine, including what is today Israel. This image, in contrast with that of other Hamas leaders (such as Dr. Mahmoud a-Zahar), captivated the residents of the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
Haniyeh's election came only few days after Hamas issued its new political platform, which generated confusion and was rejected on Saturday by the Islamic Jihad Movement.
His modest home in the narrow alleys of Gaza City's Shati refugee camp next to the Mediterranean Sea is under constant guard. In December 2005, he headed Hamas' list of (change and reform bloc) in the Palestinian legislative elections, which won the majority in 2006.
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Ismail Haniya, a former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, could help bring Hamas back into the global conversation.
"Hamas does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine".
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"Haniyeh was radicalized by the situation in Gaza", said Bjorn Brenner, a researcher on Palestinian politics at the Swedish Defense University and the author of a book on Hamas. The new Hamas document says that Israel has no right to exist.
The media implied that Hamas, which has been designated as a terrorist organization by many countries and global organizations, now accepts Israel as a legitimate state. After Israel assassinated Sheikh Yassin and his replacement Abd al-Aziz Rantisi in 2004, the movement's leadership made a decision to move its activities outside the Palestinian territories, far away from the Israeli air force.
Israel has fought three wars with Hamas since 2008, and maintains a crippling blockade on Gaza.