Moussa Abu Marzouk, the deputy of Hamas
politburo chief Khaled Mashaal, entered Gaza Thursday night for the first time since he left the Strip 30 years ago, the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported.
According to the report, published Saturday, Palestinian sources tied Marzouk's visit to Gaza to the progress
made in the ceasefire negotiations between Israel
and Hamas and to a possible deal that would see captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit returned to Israel in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.
The sources said the senior Hamas figure, who resides in Damascus, entered the Strip through the Rafah crossing, situated on the border between Egypt and Gaza.
Osama al-Mazini, one of the Hamas leaders in Gaza, denied the report, but another Hamas figure told a German news agency that Abu Marzouk entered the coastal enclave late Thursday night to visit his family in Rafah and left a few hours later.
According to Palestinian sources, Abu Marzouk would not have been allowed entry to Gaza without Israel's authorization.
Abu Marzouk visit, they said, came following the conclusion of the reconciliation talks between
representatives of Hamas and Fatah in Cairo. Abu Marzouk headed Hamas' delegation. The Egyptian-mediated talks are aimed at forming a Palestinian unity government.
The sources added that apart from Abu Marzouk, all members of Hamas' delegation returned to Damascus.
Last week Abu Marzouk told
The Guardian that Hamas rejects Israel's demand that Shalit be released in return for lifting the blockade on Gaza, but did signal that fresh information about the captive soldier might be provided if Israel moved Palestinian prisoners being held in solitary confinement to normal cells, released unwell female prisoners and published information on the Hamas gunmen Imad and Adel Abdullah, who, according to the Islamist group, have been abducted by Israeli forces.