Hamas’s exiled political leader, Khaled Meshaal, will make his first ever visit to Gaza on Friday for a three day tour, marking the group’s 25th anniversary.
Meshaal’s visit follows a ceasefire that ended days of violence between Israel and Hamas-run Gaza last month.
A statement from Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, called Meshaal’s visit: “A fruit of the victory of the resistance over the occupation.”
The trip will mark Meshaal’s first visit to the Palestinian territories since leaving the West Bank in 1967.
On Saturday he is expected to address a mass rally in Gaza City.
He is also expected to discuss reconciliation moves with the Fatah movement, which Hamas removed from Gaza by force in 2007 and which now rules parts of the West Bank.
Ahead of his Gaza visit, Meshaal told Reuters: “There is a new mood that allows us to achieve reconciliation”.
Local correspondents say that Israel – which considers Hamas a terrorist organization – is turning a blind eye to the visit.
According to AP, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, said: “We have no position on different individuals within Hamas…Hamas is Hamas is Hamas.”