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Exiled Hamas leader makes emotional visit to Gaza Strip

Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh kisses Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in Rafah today. Credit: Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters

Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal broke into tears as he arrived in the Gaza Strip for his first-ever visit.

Mashaal, who leads the Islamic militant movement from Qatar, crossed the border, kissed the ground and was greeted by a crowd of Hamas officials. He told the crowd:

"I am back in Gaza because it never left my heart. I have been dreaming of this historic moment my entire life, to come to Gaza. I ask God to give me martyrdom one day on this land."


Hamas leader arrives for 'victory rally'

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is visiting the Gaza strip for the first-ever time, on his first trip to the occupied Palestinian Territories for 45 years.

Mashaal is due to stay for three days, to attend Hamas' 25th anniversary rally on Saturday.

His visit comes two weeks after the bloodiest round of fighting between Israel and Gaza in four years.

Hamas has portrayed itself as the victor because Israel agreed to a truce after eight days, and did not send in ground troops as it threatened.

This weekend's anniversary rally will be celebrated as a celebration, with thousands expected to attend.

A local Hamas leader said:

Mashaal is coming at a time when we are celebrating victory in the war. A Hamas leader should come and celebrate with his people.

Hamas leader visits Gaza Strip for the first time

This is the first visit to Gaza by Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal Credit: Reuters

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has arrived in the Gaza Strip, in what is his first visit to the occupied Palestinian Territories in 45 years.

After passing through the Egyptian border crossing, Meshaal knelt on the ground in prayer before being greeted by dozens of officials from an array of Palestinian factions.