Meshaal is seen as a pragmatic leader. In recent years he has modified his position adopting an implicit acceptance of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, although Tel Aviv has remained guarded.
Following speculation he would be forced aside by the movement's powerful Gaza leadership, Mashaal himself said last year he would not seek a new term. But after the regional turmoil sparked by the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, the thinking shifted, and Meshaal was seen as best-placed to guide the movement, because of his extensive contacts in the Arab world, another Hamas official said. Mukhaimer Abu Saada, a politics professor at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, agreed. "Arab and regional changes were the fundamental reason for Meshaal changing his mind about candidacy, and for his victory," he told AFP.
Meshaal has used the freedom of movement that is denied to Hamas leaders in Gaza to criss-cross the Arab and Muslim world, raising the profile of the Islamist movement which seized control of the coastal enclave from forces loyal to Abbas six years ago.
Hamas sources said the Shura Council had decided to appoint two deputies who would work under Meshaal -- Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniyeh who would be responsible for issues within the Palestinian territories, and Moussa Abu Marzouq who would handle all external issues.
Meshaal, who was born in the West Bank but went into exile as a child, was propelled to the movement's leadership in 2004 after Israel assassinated Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and his successor Abdelaziz al-Rantissi in two deadly strikes on Gaza.