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Hamas names female representative

Woman is first hired to be voice of Gaza’s rulers

Isra Almodallal  took a job often held by tough-talking men.

Adel Hana/Associated Press

Isra Almodallal took a job often held by tough-talking men.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The Hamas government of the Gaza Strip has for the first time appointed a woman to represent it to the world.

The hiring of Isra Almodallal as a spokeswoman for the territory’s conservative Islamist rulers is part of a long-running push by the group, which has at times sought to curb women’s freedoms, to present a newer, friendlier face both to its own citizens and internationally.

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Almodallal, a 23-year-old who speaks fluent British-accented English, has assumed a post normally held by tough-talking men who voice Hamas’s bitter opposition to Israel. She will be responsible for the Gaza government’s communications with the international media.

‘‘We are looking forward to having a different and unique language,’’ Almodallal said in an interview in her Gaza City office, on her first week in the job. ‘‘We will make the issues more human.’’

The change in policy began six months ago when a new head of the government media department, Ihab Ghussein, took over. He hired younger media people, started a new official government website, began rampant use of social media, and started conducting seminars and workshops.

Ghussein said he appointed Almodallal in an effort ‘‘to be more open to the West.’’ He said many women were among the dozens of applicants considered for the position.

‘‘Women are partners in our society,’’ Ghussein said.

Almodallal, a divorced mother of a four-year-old girl, does not have her roots in the Hamas movement. Unlike many other Hamas officials, her office does not bear a photo of Gaza’s Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. She keeps a book on American history there, alongside the Koran.

She was raised in Gaza and spent five years in Britain as a teenager.

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