Haniya to leave Gaza for first time since 2007

AFP , Sunday 25 Dec 2011

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya will begin a tour on Sunday, his first time away from Gaza since Israel imposed a siege in 2007

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya ( photo: Reuters)

Sources in Hamas Prime Minister office told AFP that Ismail Haniya would visit Egypt and Sudan, after which he plans to go to Qatar, Turkey, Tunisia and Bahrain.

The primary purpose of the trip was to obtain "help and aid" to rebuild Gaza City, but Haniya was also likely also address the issue of Palestinian reconciliation in talks, they said.

Haniya would enter Egypt through the Rafah crossing, recently opened after remaining largely shut since June 2006 when Israel imposed a blockade after militants snatched Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was released in October as part of a prisoner swap.

The blockade was tightened a year later when the Islamist Hamas movement seized control of the Gaza Strip, ousting forces loyal to the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.

Egypt had largely complied with the restrictions, though it occasionally opened Rafah -- the only Gaza crossing that bypasses Israel -- to allow aid in and students and medical cases out.

In May, Egypt officially opened reopened its Rafah border crossing with Gaza more that three months after Egyptian former president Hosni Mubarak resigned, allowing people to cross freely for the first time in four years.

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