Hamas chief ends Gaza visit with call for Palestinian unity
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) - Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal ended his first visit to the Gaza Strip on Monday with a pledge his Islamist movement would strive to heal political rifts with Palestinian rivals who hold sway in the occupied West Bank.
His comments reinforced promises he and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the rival Fatah movement, made to each other in a telephone conversation a month ago, to forge ahead with a stalled unity deal opposed by Israel.
During his four-day stay in Gaza, Meshaal had further angered Israel with vows to never recognize the Jewish state and seek to "free the land of Palestine inch by inch", which Israel said it saw as vindicating its reluctance to yield occupied land for peace.
But in brief remarks before crossing back to Egypt from Gaza, Meshaal focused on internal Palestinian feuds.
"I entered Gaza carrying a great love for it and I exit with a greater love in my heart," the 56-year-old Hamas leader, who lives in exile, said.
"From Gaza I have stressed the need for reconciliation, and I do so again. Gaza and the West Bank are two dear parts of the greater Palestinian homeland, and they need each other."
Hamas has ruled the tiny Gaza Strip and its 1.7 million population since 2007, when it won a brief civil war with its secular rivals Fatah, which still controls the occupied West Bank. Israel had pulled troops and settlers out of Gaza in 2005.
The two main Palestinian factions have tried, often with little enthusiasm, to patch up their differences. Meshaal has vowed to push for the unity which is longed for by ordinary Palestinians. Continued...