Hamas political chief, Khaled Mashaal, will visit the Gaza Strip for the first time today.
The exiled leader will join visiting Fatah chiefs to celebrate Hamas’s 25th anniversary and what is seen in Gaza as a victory for the Islamist movement in its recent conflict with Israel.
Mashaal’s visit coincides with Hamas’s internal elections but it is widely known that he has ambitions to head up a new, united Palestinian movement that brings together Hamas and Fatah under one roof.
The return of Mashaal is being greeted warmly by Palestinians on all sides of the political spectrum, making reconciliation appear a less remote possibility.
Mashaal played a crucial role in establishing the ceasefire with Israel last month. He also is the closest person in Hamas to the Emir of Qatar - who donated hundreds of millions of dollars to Gaza recently - as well as to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Palestinian analyst Hani al-Masri told the Times of Israel: “Egypt, Qatar and Turkey want Khaled Mashaal, simply because he is a moderate and can get things done between the West and the Islamists.”