Hamas Leader Set for His First Gaza Visit

World | December 7, 2012, Friday // 08:02|  views

Exiled Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal is to visit Gaza for the first time. Photo by EPA

The exiled political leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, is due to make his first ever visit to Gaza to mark the organization's 25th anniversary.

Meshaal is scheduled to meet members of different Palestinian movements and Gaza residents as well as the families of militants killed by Israel.

His visit follows a ceasefire that ended days of violence between Hamas-run Gaza and Israel last month.

The Islamist militant group has governed Gaza since 2007.

Hamas is regarded as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the EU and US.

Meshaal is due to enter Gaza from Egypt. Officials at the Rafah border crossing said his wife had arrived late on Thursday.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement that the visit was "a fruit of the victory of the resistance over the occupation".

A huge rally on Saturday is expected to be the centrepiece of his three-day tour.

Meshaal was born in the West Bank in 1956. He moved to Kuwait after the 1967 Middle East war and later Jordan, where his involvement with Hamas began.

Jordan briefly jailed Meshaal before expelling him to Qatar.

He became Hamas's political leader in exile in 2004 when its founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, was assassinated by Israel.

Correspondents say Israel - which along with the US and EU considers Hamas a terrorist organisation - appears to be turning a blind eye to the visit.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said that Israel has no say over who entered Gaza from Egypt.

"We have no position on different individuals within Hamas," he said, according to AP news agency.

"Hamas is Hamas is Hamas," he added.

About 170 Palestinians and six Israelis died in last month's eight-day offensive which Israel said it launched to stop rocket-fire from the territ

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Tags: Israel, Palestinian, Gaza, Khaled Meshaal, Hamas, US, EU, Egypt


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