The political leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, has visited the Gaza Strip after 45 years of exile from Palestinian territories.
The leader was delighted to have been back in Gaza after a very long time calling it his “Third birth”.
He said his previous two “births” were the day he survived an assassination attempt by Israeli agents in Jordan in 1997, and his actual birth in 1956.
His visit follows a ceasefire that ended days of violence between Hamas and Israel last month.
Khaled Meshaal was Named Hamas political leader after assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 2004.
Hamas has governed Gaza since 2007.
Mr Meshaal entered Gaza from Egypt a day after his wife, at the Rafah border crossing, kissing the ground in celebration.
In a statement to the media, he said: “I consider this moment my third birth, and I pray to God that my fourth birth will be the moment when all of Palestine is liberated.”
“Gaza has always been in my heart,” he said.
Mr Meshaal is expected to visit the home of late Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, as well as that of Ahmed Jabari, the military commander killed in an Israeli strike last month.
Jabari’s death marked the start of an eight-day Israeli offensive which Israel said was aimed at halting militant rocket attacks. Some 170 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement that Mr Meshaal’s visit was “a fruit of the victory of the resistance over the occupation”.
A huge rally on Saturday is expected to be the centrepiece of his three-day tour.
Mr Meshaal is scheduled to address the rally in Gaza City and will talk about the organisation’s future strategy towards Israel.
He is also expected to discuss reconciliation moves with the Fatah movement, which Hamas removed from Gaza by force in 2007 after winning elections there. Fatah now rules parts of the West Bank.
Mr Meshaal was quick to praise Mr Abbas’s recent success in upgrading Palestinian status at the United Nations to that of a non-member “observer state”.
In response to that move, Israel announced it would move ahead with building thousands of new homes in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said that Israel had no say over who entered Gaza from Egypt.
Mr Meshaal was born in the West Bank in 1956. He moved to Kuwait after the 1967 Middle East war and later Jordan, where his involvement with Hamas began.
Militants from Hamas’s armed wing in Gaza, 7 December 2012 There was tight security in Gaza ahead of Khaled Meshaal’s visit
He ran operations from Damascus until February this year, when the unrest there prompted another move. He now bases himself in Qatar and Egypt.