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Ismail Abu Shanab

Personal Info

  • Country of residence: Palestine
  • Gender: Male
  • Born in: 1950
  • Age: 67
  • Curriculum vitae :


Ismail Abu Shanab "born 1950" was one of the founders of Hamas, and one of its three most senior leaders in Gaza. More specifically, he was the second highest leader of Hamas only after Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

He was also the political leader of Hamas, who argued strongly against suicide bombings and in favor of a long-term truce.

Shanab was married and had nine children, five daughters and four sons. His eldest son Hassan studied computer engineering in the US and his youngest son, Mesk, was two-years-old when Shanab was killed.

Son Hamza Abu Shanab (born 1984) heads the Palestinian Assembly for Supporting the Syrian Revolution, a nongovernmental organization. Shanab lived in the community of Eshaikh Radhwan, north of Gaza City.

Early life and education

Shanab was born in the central Gaza refugee camp of Nuseirat in 1950. His family was originally from the village of Al Jayyeh, a village near Ashkelon and Yubna. The family was expelled from the village and came the refugee camp in 1948.

He graduated from high school in 1966 and was accepted at then newly opened Bir Zeit University in the West Bank. However, due to the 1967-Arab-Israeli War and Israel's subsequent occupation, he could not attend the university. In 1972, he managed to go to Egypt to receive university education.

He obtained a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering fromMansoura University in Cairo.  After working four years in Gaza city, Shanab went to the US and obtained a master of science degree in civil engineering from Colorado State University.

Career and activities

Shanab returned to Gaza city in 1977 after completing his undergraduate studies and he worked at the municipal council until 1981. Following the completion of graduate studies in the US Shanab began to work as an instructor in engineering at Gaza Islamic University. During this period, Shanab met with the Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin, Ibrahim Magadmeh and the Islamic Jihad founder Fathi Shiqaqi, and eventually, he joined Hamas.

He was imprisoned in 1989 for his involvement in founding Hamas and being a deputy to Ahmed Yassin. On the other hand, Israel press statement argued that Shanab was detained since he had admitted to have participated in planning and carrying out the kidnapping and murder of an Israeli soldier, Ilan Sa'adon. He improved his religious knowledge base during the his time in prison.

Shanab was freed in late 1996. After his release, he was elected as the head of the Palestinian Engineers Association on the list of Hamas in 1997.

In November 1998, Palestinian police arrested Shanab and other top Hamas leaders, including Mahmoud Al Zahar, Ismail Haniyya and Ahmed Baher.

Then Shanab began to serve as Hamas observer in the Central Council of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. He also became one of the spokespersons of the Hamas' political wing in Gaza. However, his role as spokesperson was not ordinary in that he was Hamas’s most visible spokesperson in the western media.

After suicide bombings killed 25 people in Israel in 2001, Palestinian police arrested Shanab and Haniya among the others in December 2001. Shanab participated in the 2002 and 2003 peace talks as a Hamas representative.

He also functioned as Hamas’s link to Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas when Abbas was trying to persuade militant groups to stop attacking Israelis.

Shanab was one of the supporters of ceasefire declared by armed Palestinian groups including Hamas and Islamic Jihad on 29 June 2003. The ceasefire was unilateral, called hudna in Arabic.

Shanab was the third-in-command in Hamas, behind late Abdulaziz Rantisi and Mahmud Zahar and in front of Ismail Haniyeh before his assassination in August 2003.


Abu Shanab represented the Hamas’s more moderate and pragmatic side, although he was subject to Yassin’s leadership and committed to Hamas ideology. Unlike Yassin, he supported a long-term ceasefire with Israel and a two-state solution.

On the other hand, he argued that group decision is better than individual decision, even though the individual is right. Although he did not advocated suicide bombing attacks, he stated that it was a primitive weapon and added "But, it’s all we have and it’s less harmful than F-16s loaded with tons of explosives."


Achievements and Awards

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