First Published: 2012-12-07


Meshaal: I hope God will make me a martyr in Gaza


Exiled Hamas chief kisses soil on his first visit to Gaza Strip amid tight security.


Middle East Online

His dream came true

RAFAH, Palestinian Territories - Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal crossed into the Gaza Strip on Friday on his first-ever visit, kissing the ground and hoping he would one day die a "martyr" in the Palestinian territory.

Accompanied by his deputy, Mussa Abu Marzuk, and other senior officials, Meshaal drove through the crossing and then got out and kissed the ground before embracing Gaza's Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya.

His visit comes just two weeks after the end of a fierce conflict with Israel, which began on November 14 with an Israeli air strike in Gaza City that killed top Hamas militant Ahmed Jaabari.

Shortly after his arrival, Meshaal was taken to see the charred remains of Jaabari's car, which had been transported to Rafah especially for the visit.

"I hope God will make me a martyr on the land of Palestine in Gaza," he said on seeing it.

Izzat al-Rishq, another senior member of the Islamist movement's exiled politbureau, said it was a moving experience to finally be in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

"This is the greatest feeling I've ever had. It is an unforgettable historic moment," he said. "Our wish to kiss the soil of Palestine has come true."

Senior Hamas official Mahmud al-Zahar hailed the visit and said it was replete with symbolism.

"No matter how long a Palestinian is away from his homeland, he will always return after a victory," he said.

Streets across the territory were decked with green Hamas flags to mark the visit, along with the red flags of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) which on December 11 marks its 45th anniversary.

Masked Hamas militants from its Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades armed wing were out en masse, wearing fatigues and carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles, as they patrolled the roads along which the official convoy was set to travel.


Iraq forces fight to tighten noose around Mosul

In Syria, Kurds restore ancient names to Arabised towns

UN call to extend Yemen truce falls on deaf ears

Turkey reports over 35,000 people in detention after coup attempt

In violation of constitution, Iraq parliament votes to ban alcohol

Turkey hits Kurdish group in Syria again

Kremlin aims to 'liberate' Syria with Assad in power

Egypt court upholds 20-year sentence for Morsi

Turkey PM warns EU: Turkey has alternatives!

Battles rage in Yemen despite three-day truce

For second day, Iraq forces clash with ISIS in Kirkuk

New report accuses Syria of chemical attack in Qmenas village

Islamic Jihad stages show of force in Gaza

UN says 'crimes' in Aleppo are 'of historic proportions'

IS sniper kills Iraqi journalist in Kirkuk

US official says coalition should target IS in Raqa after Mosul

Moscow extends Aleppo ceasefire

Italy PM says officials should have voted against UNESCO Jerusalem resolution

Syrian ‘Toy Smuggler’ accused of fraud

UN: IS may use civilians as human shields in Mosul

Armed men attack refugee boat off Libya

US says will work with Turkey to deal IS 'lasting defeat'

Moscow ‘highly concerned’ at jihadists’ refusal to leave Aleppo

Four Palestinians arrested by their security forces for settlement visit

Mauritania president says no change to two-term limit

UN delays Aleppo evacuations due to lack of security assurances

Oman denies reports of arms smuggling to Yemen

Israel looking to buy three more German submarines

83 migrants rescued off Cyprus

Under pressure in Mosul, IS fighters attack Kirkuk

Air strikes hit Yemen rebels despite ceasefire

US officials: Iran boosting arms sales to Huthis via Oman

Iraq forces make gains against IS near Mosul

Arab coalition accuses Yemen rebels of breaching truce

Italian PM blocks EU sanctions threat against Russia over Aleppo

Pentagon chief in Turkey for talks on tensions with Iraq

Israeli occupation troops kill Palestinian teenager

Iraqis flee IS-held Mosul for war-torn Syria

Five years after his death, Kadhafi's 'Green Book' is ridiculed in Libya

Iraq issues warrant for former governor of Mosul

EU leaders threaten sanctions against Assad allies

Syria army urges residents to evacuate Aleppo during ceasefire

British warships shadow Syria-bound Russian naval force

Turkey unexpectedly keeps interest rate steady

British PM urges united EU response to Russia over Syria 'atrocities'