Tunisian president to visit Gaza in February
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Tunisian president to visit Gaza in February

Moncef Marzouki to be fourth Muslim leader to come to Hamas-run Strip in as many months

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, right, President Moncef Marzouki, center, and head of constitutional assembly Mustapha Ben Jaafar, left, salute the national flag during a ceremony marking the second anniversary of the Revolution, Monday, January 14, 2013, in Tunis (photo credit: AP)
Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, right, President Moncef Marzouki, center, and head of constitutional assembly Mustapha Ben Jaafar, left, salute the national flag during a ceremony marking the second anniversary of the Revolution, Monday, January 14, 2013, in Tunis (photo credit: AP)

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki is expected to visit Gaza in early February, sources in the Hamas government announced.

Government secretary Abdul Salam Siam told the Hamas-affiliated daily Felesteen that Marzouki’s visit will have “political and nonpolitical ramifications” on the Palestinian people, calling him an “important guest.”

Ghazi Hamad, Hamas’s deputy prime minister, said the visit would take place on February 9.

A member of the Islamist Ennahda party, Marzouki returned to Tunisia from exile following the ouster of president Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali, and was elected interim president by the constituent assembly of the country in December 2011.

Marzouki’s planned visit is a further boost to Hamas’s newfound popularity in the Arab and Muslim world. In late October, Qatari ruler Sheikh Hamas bin Khalifa was the first Arab leader to visit the Strip since its takeover by Hamas in 2007. Sheikh Hamad was followed by Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil, who came to Gaza in November to express solidarity with residents during Operation Pillar of Defense.

Finally, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is expected to visit Gaza later this week at the head of a ministerial delegation.

Marzouki was invited to Gaza by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh during the latter’s visit to Tunis last January. Marzouki told the Tunisian news agency last November that he intended to visit both Gaza and the West Bank, but there was no indication that Marzouki would hold meetings in the PA-controlled territories.

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