RAMALLAH – Hamas Politburo Chief Khaled Mishaal arrived in the Gaza Strip Friday for the first time in 45 years.
As soon as he arrived at the Palestinian side of Rafah crossing on the border with Egypt, Mishaal went down on his knees and kissed the soil of the Gaza Strip.
He arrived along with his deputy Musa Abu Marzouk and members of the Hamas politburo Izzat Al-Risheq and Mohammed Nasser to celebrate the movement’s 25th anniversary which will start Saturday.
He was greeted by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, deputy speaker of Hamas-dominated parliament Ahmed Bahar, ministers and other senior Hamas leaders in addition to officials and leaders of other Palestinian factions, including rival Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party.
“This is a historic moment for the Palestinian people,” Haniyeh said. He added that Mishaal will stay in the coastal enclave for three days.
Mishaal declared the moment of his arrival in the Gaza Strip to be his symbolic “third birth.”
“This is my third birth, I was born in 1956, my second birth was surviving the assassination attempt initiated by (then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu (in 1997), and I hope Allah will grant me a martyr’s death in Gaza,” he said.
“My fourth birth will be Palestine’s liberation day. Today it’s Gaza, tomorrow it will be Ramallah and then Jerusalem, Haifa and Jaffa.” Mishaal added.
On Thursday, Mishaal’s wife and daughters arrived in the Gaza Strip together with 15 Hamas officials.
Faisal Abu Shahla, the head of Fatah’s higher committee in Gaza Strip, said that his movement has accepted Hamas’ invitation to participate in celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of the movement.
The invitation, the first of its kind in more than a decade, is seen as yet another sign of rapprochement between the rival parties.
Abu Shahla said that the Hamas anniversary comes amid a “positive and good atmosphere following the victories of our people.”
He added that there was no reason why we should not participate with our Hamas brothers in the celebrations.