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Malaysian premier arrives in Gaza Strip

Jan. 22, 2013 12:30 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 23, 2013 2:51 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The prime minister of Malaysia arrived in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, the first visit of its kind in diplomatic relations between both governments.

Prime Minister Muhammad Najib Abdul Razak arrived in Gaza via the Rafah crossing, accompanied by his wife, and was welcomed by a Hamas delegation led by Gaza premier Ismail Haniyeh.

The Malaysian premier held a brief press conference, praising the Palestinian people for enduring Israel's oppression and urging Palestinian factions to unite.

"We believe in the struggle of the Palestinian people. They have been suppressed and oppressed for so long," Najib told reporters as he was greeted by officials from Gaza's Hamas government.

"We may be far from you in distance, but we are one nation and believe in the struggle of the Palestinian people," he added.

Haniyeh thanked the government and people of Malaysia for their support for the Palestinian people.

Razak visited a Gaza university and government offices, as well as the family of top Hamas military chief Ahmed al-Jaabari, whose assassination by Israel in November started an eight-day war in which more than 160 Palestinians and six Israelis died.

Abdul Razak is expected to open several projects in Gaza, and will lay a foundation stone for the Gaza government's cabinet building, which was destroyed during Israel's November assault.

President Abbas' office condemned the visit, saying "it enhances division and does not serve Palestinian interests."

In October last year, the emir of Qatar made a historic visit to the Gaza Strip, the first head of state to enter Gaza since 1999.

Gaza’s Hamas rulers said the visit by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani had broken the Israeli siege, and Palestinians lined the street to welcome the emir.

Reuters contributed to this report
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