Mashaal and Abbas ‘plan’ visit to Gaza

Mashaal and Abbas ‘plan’ visit to Gaza

Mashaal and Abbas ‘plan’ visit to Gaza

Palestinian President Abbas (R) meets with Mashaal in this file photo. AFP photo

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is planning a trip to the Gaza Strip along with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in an effort to support reconciliation between the governments in Gaza and Ramallah, the London-based al-Hayat newspaper reported yesterday.

Mashaal asked Cairo to grant him passage to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing, a “reliable Palestinian source” told the London-based daily. The Rafah border crossing is the only land crossing in Gaza not abutting Israel. The source did not give a precise date for the visit, saying it would occur at the “appropriate time” because of the “sensitivity of the visit,” Israeli daily Jerusalem Post quoted the newspaper.

The trip would be the “first of its kind” for Mashaal, who was born in the West Bank but spent most of his life abroad in Kuwait, Jordan and Syria, the report said.

Mashaal requested that Abbas accompany him on his visit to Gaza in order to underline cooperation between Hamas and Fatah, and in order to continue pursuing a reconciled, unified Palestinian government, according to al-Hayat.

Reports of Mashaal’s visit in Gaza come days after Mashaal has decided not to seek another term. It is unclear whether Mashaal is serious about stepping aside, or hopes to elicit a show of support from the movement by announcing he is not seeking re-election, the Associated Press reported.

Under Hamas’ internal rules, the head of the political bureau can only serve for up to eight years. Mashaal has faced severe criticism in the past for staying on past his time as he has led the movement since 1996.

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