GAZA — The political leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, has called his first visit to the Gaza Strip his “third birth”.
He said his previous two “births” were the day he survived an assassination attempt by Israeli agents in Jordan in 1997, and his actual birth in 1956.
Meshaal had not set foot in the Palestinian territories since leaving the West Bank in 1967.
His visit follows a ceasefire that ended days of violence between Hamas and Israel last month.
The Islamist militant group has governed Gaza since 2007.
Meshaal entered Gaza from Egypt at the Rafah border crossing, kissing the ground in celebration. Officials there said his wife had arrived late yesterday.
In a statement to the media, he said: “I consider this moment my third birth, and I pray to God that my fourth birth will be the moment when all of Palestine is liberated.”
“Gaza has always been in my heart,” he said.
Meshaal is expected to visit the home of late Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, as well as that of Ahmed Jabari, the military commander killed in an Israeli strike last month.
Jabari’s death marked the start of an eight-day Israeli offensive which Israel said was aimed at halting militant rocket attacks. Some 170 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed. (BBC)