Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is planning a trip to the Gaza Strip along with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in an effort to support reconciliation between the governments in Gaza and Ramallah, pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat reported Monday,

Mashaal, who visited Egypt this past week for meetings with Egyptian and foreign officials, 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.

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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," according to the newspaper.

The report said that 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 external and exiled leadership of Hamas operates out of its Damascus-based political bureau, which Mashaal has led since 1996.

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.

The report came a week after Hamas announced Mashaal would not seek reelection to head Hamas's political bureau, what some saw as a blow to reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.

Sources close to Hamas said that the movement’s leadership in the Gaza Strip was opposed to the rapprochement between Mashaal and Abbas.

Hamas’s top leaders in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud Zahar, have also expressed their opposition to Mashaal’s call for a nonviolent, popular intifada against Israel, the sources said.


Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report

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