AL JAZEERA (Qatar), BBC NEWS (UK), CNN (USA)
GAZA CITY – Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal set foot in Gaza on Friday, ending 45 years of exile from the Palestinian Territories, reports Al Jazeera.
After passing across the Egyptian border at Rafah, Meshaal knelt on the ground to offer a prayer of thanks and was then greeted by dozens of Palestinian officials.
"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," Meshaal said in a statement to the media.
The Hamas leader had not set foot in the Palestinian territories since leaving the West Bank in 1967, reports BBC News. He was eleven years old when he fled to Kuwait with his family.
He has referred to his second birth as the day he survived an Israeli assassination in Jordan in 1997.
Meeshal traveled to Gaza to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the founding of Hamas, reports CNN. A huge rally on Saturday is expected to be the centerpiece of his three-day tour in Gaza.
The 56-year-old leader is also expected to engage reconciliation talks with Fatah, which Hamas removed from Gaza by force in 2007 after winning elections there.
"There is a new mood that allows us to achieve reconciliation," Meshaal said in an interview last Friday from Qatar, where he has been based since leaving Syria earlier this year.
[rebelmouse-image 27086092 alt="""" original_size="320x213" expand=1]Meeshal in 2009 (Trango)
Meeshal became Hamas's political leader in exile in 2004 after Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was killed in an Israeli helicopter missile strike on his car. His trip comes after a ceasefire that ended eight days of armed conflict between Israel and Hamas last month.