Hamas leader Meshaal kisses Gaza soil on first visit in 45 yrs

Last Updated: Sat, Dec 08, 2012 05:42 hrs

Hamas's exiled leader Khaled Meshaal kissed the soil of Gaza as he stepped on to the Palestinian land for the first time in 45 years for a 'victory rally'.

Meshaal, who was accompanied by his deputy, Mussa Abu Marzuk, and other senior officials, drove through the crossing and then got out and kissed the ground before embracing Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya.

"I hope God will make me a martyr on the land of Palestine in Gaza," the Telegraph quoted him, as saying.

Meshaal, 56, left the West Bank with his family after the 1967 Middle East war, when Israel took control of the territory along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

He has never set foot in Gaza, home to some 1.7 million Palestinians, the paper said.

According to the paper, Meshaal ran Hamas from exile in Damascus from 2004 until January this year when he quit the Syrian capital because of Iranian-backed President Bashar al-Assad's war against Sunni Muslim rebels.

He now divides his time between Qatar and Cairo.

His abrupt departure from Syria initially weakened his position within Hamas: ties with Damascus and Tehran had made him important, but with those links damaged or broken, rivals based within Gaza had started to assert their authority, the paper said.

However, the exiled leader regained the initiative in the November war, working closely with Egypt to secure the truce, it added. (ANI)

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