Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal kissed the ground upon arriving in the Gaza Strip for the first time on Friday to attend celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Islamist movement.
The Hamas leader declared the moment of his arrival in the Strip to be his symbolic "third birth," setting foot in the coastal enclave for the first time and returning to the area of Mandate Palestine for the first time since 1967.
Mashaal clarified that his "first birth" was his literal birth, and the second, his survival of an Israeli assassination attempt. His "fourth birth," Mashaal said, would take place "when the whole of Palestine is liberated."
On Thursday, Mashaal’s wife and daughters arrived in the Strip together with 15 Hamas officials.
Relatives of slain Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari also headed from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip via Egypt to attend the celebrations.
Jabari, whom the IAF killed on November 14, was originally from Hebron.
Fatah has accepted Hamas’s invitation to participate in celebrations in the Gaza Strip marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Islamist movement.
The invitation, the first of its kind in more than a decade, is seen as yet another sign of rapprochement between the rivals parties.
Hamas and Fatah have pledged to work hard to end their differences in the aftermath of Operation Pillar of Defense and the UN General Assembly vote in favor of upgrading the Palestinians’ status to nonmember observer state.
Following last month’s IDF air offensive in the Gaza Strip, several Fatah officials, including Nabil Sha’ath, took part in “victory” celebrations organized by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Last month, Hamas banned Fatah supporters in the Gaza Strip from holding rallies on the anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat.
Fayez Abu Aitah, a spokesman for Fatah, confirmed that his faction would participate in the Hamas celebrations, which will be launched on Saturday.
He said that the Hamas anniversary comes amid a “positive and good atmosphere following the victories of our people.”
Yehya Rabah, a senior Fatah official in the Gaza Strip, also confirmed that his faction would attend the Hamas celebrations.
“There is no reason why we should not participate with our Hamas brothers in the celebrations,” Rabah said. “This is a step forward toward achieving reconciliation.”