‘Al-Hayat’: Abbas and Mashaal to visit Gaza Strip

Hamas leader asked Egypt to grant him passage through Rafah; visit will be 'first of its kind' for Mashaal, 'Al Hayat' reports.

Mashaal with Abbas 311 R (photo credit: Reuters)
Mashaal with Abbas 311 R
(photo credit: Reuters)
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is planning to visit the Gaza Strip together with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the London- based Al-Hayat daily reported Monday.
However, Hamas and PA officials said they did not know anything about the planned visit.
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The paper did not say when the visit would take place. Quoting informed Palestinian sources, the paper said that Mashaal was determined to visit the Gaza Strip at an appropriate time. If and when it takes place, the visit would be the first of its kind to the Palestinian territories.
Mashaal, who was born in Silwad near Ramallah in 1956, has lived since 1967 in Jordan, Kuwait and Syria.
“Mashaal wishes to visit the Gaza Strip together with Abbas and not alone,” the sources told the pan-Arab daily. “He wishes to demonstrate, through the visit, the need for serious efforts to end the power struggle between Hamas and Fatah.”
Last weekend, Hamas confirmed that Mashaal won’t seek reelection as head of the movement’s political bureau.
Mashaal has been in the job since 1996.
Mashaal’s decision not to seek reelection is seen as part of the power struggle that has been raging in recent months between the movement’s leadership in Syria and those based in the Gaza Strip.
Sources close to Hamas said that Mashaal’s efforts to achieve reconciliation with Fatah have enraged the movement’s leaders in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip are also opposed to Mashaal’s call for abandoning the armed struggle against Israel in favor of popular and peaceful protests.
Ismail Radwan, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, said that while his movement welcomed any plan by Mashaal and Abbas to visit the Strip, it would be better if it took place after the reconciliation between the two parties is achieved.
“Hamas is keen on making the reconciliation process succeed and ending the division in the Palestinian arena,” Radwan said. “We hope the reconciliation will be achieved in the near future so that the visit could take place.”
In Ramallah, a senior PA official told The Jerusalem Post Monday that it was “premature” to talk about a visit by Abbas to the Gaza Strip.
“President Abbas will visit the Gaza Strip only after Hamas honors the understandings reached between the two sides during the meetings in Egypt and the Gaza Strip,” the official said. “For now, it appears that Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip are not interested in ending the split.”