Palestinian Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal to visit Gaza
BBC News online - 6 November 2012
The exiled political leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, is due to make his first ever visit to Gaza to mark the organisation's 25th anniversary.
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, Canada and US.
Mr 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.
Mr 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 Mr 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, Canada 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 territory.
Hamas has portrayed itself as the victor because Israel agreed to an Egyptian-brokered truce instead of sending in ground troops as it had warned it could do.
On Thursday, Palestinian workers were setting up a stage for Saturday's anniversary rally that included a replica of a type of rocket Hamas has fired into Israel. "Made in Gaza," was written on it.
Under its charter, Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel.
Last week, Israel announced it would move ahead with building thousands of new homes in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
The move came after the UN General Assembly voted to recognise the Palestinians as a non-member observer state.