For the first time since 2007, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh left the Gaza Strip Sunday on a tour that will take him to a number of Arab and Islamic countries.

On the eve of the tour, Hamas reiterated its opposition to renouncing violence and recognizing Israel’s right to exist.

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Haniyeh’s tour will take him to Egypt, Sudan, Turkey, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, said a Hamas official in the Gaza Strip.

Unconfirmed reports said that Haniyeh will also visit Benghazi for talks with the new leaders of Libya.

Haniyeh left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing at the head of a delegation consisting of ministers and top Hamas officials.

The London-based Al- Hayat newspaper said that Sudanese President Omar Bashir sent a private plane to Cairo to pick up the Hamas prime minister.

Haniyeh’s talks with the Arab and Muslim leaders will focus on the situation in the Gaza Strip, the official said.

The Hamas leader will seek financial aid for rebuilding destroyed houses and solving the severe problem of unemployment in the Gaza Strip, the official added.

Yusef Rizka, a political adviser to Haniyeh, said this was an important visit because of the changes in the Arab world as a result of the “Arab Spring.”


Meanwhile, Hamas legislator Salah Bardaweel reaffirmed his movement’s refusal to recognize Israel.

He said Hamas remained committed to the armed resistance option “until the occupiers are expelled from Palestine.”

“We won’t recognize Israel under any circumstances,” Bardaweel declared.

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