Prime Minister Muhammad Najib Abdul Razak of Malaysia arrived in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday for his first visit to the Hamas-controlled area.
Abdul Razak and his wife were welcomed by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh at the Rafah crossing, and he gave a brief press conference upon his arrival.
According the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, Abdul Razak urged the different Palestinian factions to unite, and he praised their endurance of Israeli oppression.
“We may be far from you in distance, but we are one nation and believe in the struggle of the Palestinian people,” Abdul Razak said.
The Malaysian premier was scheduled to meet with Hamas politicians, tour sites bombed by Israeli forces and visit a school funded by his majority-Muslim nation in Southeast Asia.
The West has branded Hamas, which seized Gaza in 2007, as a terror organization. The Arab Spring uprisings that brought Islamists to power in parts of the region also enabled Hamas to break out of its isolation.
In October, the leader of resource-rich Qatar became the first head of state to visit Gaza. Hamas also forged closer ties in the past two years with regional powerhouses Egypt and Turkey.