The head of the Islamist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip said on Friday he was confident Egypt's new president would shield the Palestinian enclave from Israeli attack and fully open its borders to end a trade blockade.

Mohamed Mursi, who won power in last month's presidential election in Egypt, is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and ideologically close to Hamas.

The Gazan Islamists long complained that his predecessor Hosni Mubarak, ousted from power last year in a popular revolt, sided not just with Israel, but also with their political rival -- Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement.

So far, Hamas has seen little sign of a policy shift since Mursi took office and diplomats said the Egyptian leader had so many domestic problems that he could ill-afford to dedicate much time to re-tooling Cairo's relations with the Palestinians.

However, Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas's Gaza government, told worshipers in a mosque that change was coming.

"We are confident that Egypt, the revolution led by Mursi, will never provide cover for any new aggression or war on Gaza," he said. "We are confident that Egypt, the revolution led by Mursi, will not take any part in blocking Gaza," he added.

Israel launched a military offensive against Gaza in late 2008 in an effort to end repeated rocket attacks from Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist. Some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died in the three-week war.

Low level violence continues and Israel still imposes a rigid trade blockade on Gaza, arguing that it is needed to prevent weapons of arms-making materials into the enclave.

Politicians in Israel have expressed alarm in private over the election of Mursi and fear that their country's historical peace treaty with Egypt could be eroded over time.

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