Hamas Names First Spokeswoman

Presents English-speaking, female-friendly face to public

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Mohammed Salem / Reuters

Isra Al-Modallal, a spokeswoman of the Hamas government in Gaza, talks to the foreign media at her office in Gaza City November 11, 2013.

Hamas — the militant organization that governs the Gaza Strip and that the U.S., European Union, and other countries label a terrorist organization — has appointed its first female spokesperson to oversee communications with the international media.

The hiring of Isra al-Modallal, a 23-year-old journalist, is part of a larger shift in the group’s media strategy that began six months ago, in which it hired younger media staffers, started a new website, and began reaching out to followers through social media.

al-Modallal also represents Hamas’ effort to present a friendlier face for Gaza citizens and international audiences. A divorced mother of a 4-year-old girl, she studied in the U.K. and speaks fluent English with a British accent. Ihab Ghussein, the head of Gaza’s media department, told Al Jazeera that he hired al-Modallal as part of an effort “to be more open to the West.” He also hopes that al-Modallal will appeal to women, who he called “partners in our society.”

In her first week on the job, al-Modallal has taken a different tone than many previous Hamas spokesmen, referring to Israel by name. “I am not Hamas. I am a Palestinian activist who loves her country,”she told Al Jazeera. She also says that women in Gaza are making their way into politics. “Every day, women’s footsteps can be seen advancing more in society.

[Al Jazeera]