Hamas chief leaves Gaza after first visit: Spokesman

AFP , Monday 10 Dec 2012

Hamas leader in-exile Khaled Meshaal leaves the Gaza Strip after a four-day historical visit

Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal shakes hands with a man as he leaves the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip December 10, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)

Exiled Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal left the Gaza Strip on Monday after a historic and jubilant first visit to the tiny Palestinian enclave that enraged Israelis.

"Abu al-Walid (Meshaal) left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah terminal this afternoon after his historic visit," interior ministry spokesman Islam Shahwan told AFP, referring to the Rafah crossing on the border with Egypt.

He arrived in Gaza on Friday to join celebrations marking 25 years since the founding of his Islamist movement, kissing the ground as he crossed into the tiny coastal strip for a four-day visit.

During the visit, he vowed never to give up even "an inch" of Palestinian territory or to recognise Israel, and called for reconciliation between Hamas and the rival Fatah movement which dominates the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.

His speech drew huge crowd of celebrating Hamas supporters.

In Jerusalem at a reception for foreign journalists, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Meshaal had called for the Jewish state to be dismantled and yet the world, which condemns Israeli settlement building, remained mute.

"This weekend, the leaders of Hamas openly called for the destruction of Israel," Netanyahu said.

"Where was the outrage? Where were the UN resolutions? Where was (Palestinian) president (Mahmud) Abbas? Why weren't Palestinian diplomats summoned to European and other capitals to explain why (he) not only refused to condemn this but actually declared his intention to unite with Hamas?"

After the Palestinians won an historic upgrade of their diplomatic status at the United Nations Israel announced a new round of settlement building, including the contentious E1 plan to build between largely Arab east Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumin.

The move stirred a chorus of disapproval from the international community.

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