Best of AP — First Winner


Rare multiformat interview with Hamas leader breaks news

Khalil al-Hayya, a high-ranking Hamas official who has represented the Palestinian militant group in negotiations for a cease-fire and hostage exchange deal, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, April 24, 2024. AP PHOTO / KHALIL HAMRA

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In an exclusive interview with AP, a high-ranking Hamas political official for the first time suggested that the militant group would put down its weapons with the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, acknowledging that a two-state solution could be possible even if temporarily.

The interview, which came at a crucial time in Gaza ceasefire negotiations, was the result of persistence by AP staff and collaboration between the Beirut and Istanbul teams.

Having dealt with Hamas officials in Beirut regularly on stories before and after Oct. 7, Lebanon/Syria/Iraq news director Abby Sewell had requested an interview with one of Hamas’ senior officials, Moussa Abu Marzouk, and was told it would be granted and would take place in Istanbul.

While she was awaiting confirmation of the date, Hamas’ top political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, showed up in Turkey and met with the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

At that point, Istanbul-based photographer Khalil Hamra, originally from Gaza, suggested using his contacts to aim for the highest-ranking possible interview. The sit-down with Haniyeh was denied, but an interview with al-Hayya, one of the group’s most senior politburo members — who has been leading the cease-fire negotiations on its behalf and who rarely speaks to Western media — was granted.

On very short notice, Sewell flew to Istanbul to conduct the interview, along with Hamra and Istanbul video journalist Mehmet Guzel.

The all-formats report was widely picked up and prominently featured across English and Arabic-language media and prompted outlets including Al Jazeera and CNN to scramble to match the reporting.

The story was among the top five reads across AP news platforms, with nearly 150,000 pageviews in the first 24 hours and making it one of the top stories of the week.

The impact of the interview also had a reflection on the usage data by broadcast clients: nearly 500 hits across 70 channels.

The interview also sent our competitors to try to match it, with CNN publishing the first follow up interview with a lower-ranking official also in Istanbul, more than 24 hours after our piece was published.

For persistence and collaboration to win a scoop on one of the world’s most pressing stories, Sewell, Hamra and Guzel are Best of AP — First Winner.

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