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Hamas leaders leave Gaza en route for Egyptian capital

HAMAS LEADERS LEAVE GAZA EN ROUTE FOR EGYPTIAN CAPITAL

Ismail Haniyeh, political chief of Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, set out from the Gaza Strip on Saturday for Cairo, where he is scheduled to meet with Egyptian officials.

A well-informed Hamas source told Anadolu Agency that Haniyeh was being accompanied on his trip by a large delegation including Yahia Sinwar, head of Hamas in Gaza; Sinwar's deputy, Khalil al-Hayya; and Ruhi Mushtahi, a member of Hamas's political bureau.

Notably, the visit represents Haniyeh's first trip abroad since his election as movement leader in May.

According to the same Hamas source, who spoke anonymously due to restrictions on speaking to media, delegation members -- who, he said, had already crossed the Egypt-Gaza border -- plan to hold talks with several Egyptian officials in Cairo.

Talks in Cairo, the source added, would also be attended by several leading Hamas officials based abroad, including Moussa Abu Marzouk and Saleh al-Arouri.

Following the talks, the Hamas delegation "may conduct a tour of some Arab and Muslim countries", the same source said, without specifying which countries the tour would include.

In a statement issued earlier Saturday, Hamas said talks with Egyptian officials would tackle a range of issues, including means of enhancing Egypt-Hamas relations and easing a 10-year-old blockade of the Gaza Strip imposed by Egypt and Israel.

Since 2007, the Hamas-run coastal enclave has groaned under a crippling Israeli/Egyptian blockade that has deprived its roughly 2 million inhabitants of most basic commodities, including food, fuel and medicine.

The Gaza Strip has seven border crossings linking it to the outside world. Six of these are controlled by Israel, while the seventh -- the Rafah crossing -- is controlled by Egypt, which continues to keep it tightly sealed for the most part.

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