Abu Marzouk 224 88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal's deputy, Moussa Abu Marzouk, entered the Gaza Strip on Thursday night for the first time in almost 20 years, news reports said on Saturday.
The London-based newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi reported that Marzouk, who headed a Hamas delegation to Cairo for Palestinian reconciliation talks, visited Gaza for consultations on a cease-fire with Israel and the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit.
According to the report, the rest of the delegation returned to Damascus, where both the exiled Mashaal and Marzouk are based.
A Reuters report quoted Palestinian and Egyptian officials as confirming that Marzouk had crossed via Rafah, on the border between Gaza and Egypt, and left the Gaza Strip after only a few hours.
The Jerusalem Post could not immediately confirm either report, and Reuters said that Israeli officials declined comment.
Earlier this month, Marzouk told The Guardian that Schalit would only be released in return for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. Regarding the abducted soldier's exact location, he reportedly said that it was "good that [the Israelis] don't know where he is, otherwise they would have killed him."
Marzouk reportedly reiterated statements made by his group that the issue of Schalit would not be linked to the cease-fire with Israel.
"Israel and Egypt and Hamas have known for two years that the Schalit file is completely separate from other issues," he was quoted as saying. "We are ready to start negotiating about Schalit, but the issue is not linked to any other, as far as we are concerned."