Hamas chief mobbed on Gaza return
Published 08/12/2012 | 05:00
Policemen kissed him, crowds mobbed him and gunfire rattled out in celebration as Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal made his first ever visit to the Gaza Strip.
Born in the nearby West Bank, 56-year-old Meshaal has lived in exile for most of his life, serving as a vital pointman for his Islamist group with its closest allies – once Syria and Iran, now Egypt and Qatar.
The target of a botched Israeli assassination plot in 1997, Meshaal felt safe enough to come to Gaza yesterday, following last month's conflict with Israel.
Egypt underwrote the ceasefire, something that is likely to have reassured Meshaal that Israel would not try to kill him on such a visit.
Hamas seized control of Gaza in a brief civil war against its secular rival Fatah in 2007.
Fatah, led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, still governs in the West Bank and repeated attempts to overcome the divide have ended in acrimony.