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With Hamas's confidence waxing, Khaled Meshaal arrives in Gaza

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Suhaib Salem/Reuters

(Read caption) Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal (l.) waves as he stands next to senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh upon Meshaal's arrival in the Gaza Strip today. Mr. Meshaal's arrival ended 45 years of exile from Palestinian land and underscored the Islamist group's growing confidence following its recent conflict with Israel.

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Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal is walking on Palestinian territory for the first time in 45 years. He's in town to celebrate his party’s 25th anniversary and the end of a week-long conflagration with Israel last month.

But his visit could also signal growing confidence within the Islamist party – which Israel, the United States, and the European Union consider a terrorist organization – over its position in the tumultuous Middle East.

Mr. Meshaal, who left the West Bank as a boy in 1967 and had not visited Gaza before today, has led Hamas for over 15 years, primarily from the party's offices in Damascus, Syria.  But he was in Egypt late last month for negotiations of the cease-fire that ended the eight-day conflict with Israel. Some 170 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed in the violence, the Telegraph reports, the worst fighting in four years.  The New York Times reports that Hamas' negotiation of “a cease-fire with Israel through the agency of the Egyptians … may represent an important step toward becoming a more recognized international player and representative of at least a portion of the Palestinian people.”


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