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Mashaal arrives in Turkey at head of Hamas delegation

Islamist chief to attend conference of ruling AKP; his group includes member of cell that killed IDF soldier in 1994

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Palestinian Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal seen during the congress of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012 (AP/Kayhan Ozer)
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Palestinian Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal seen during the congress of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012 (AP/Kayhan Ozer)

Hamas politburo leader Khaled Mashaal arrived in Turkey at the head of a delegation from the extremist group, and will attend the conference of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara, Israel’s Ynet website reported Saturday.

The delegation includes Jihad Yarmur, a member of the Hamas cell that kidnapped and murdered IDF soldier Nachshon Wachsman, and who was released from an Israeli prison in 2011 as part of the prisoner exchange for Gilad Shalit.

Osama Hamdan, a Hamas official in charge of international relations, said last month that the delegation would be visiting Turkey in the near future. He said Mashaal and the group would meet senior Turkish officials in order to discuss the situation of the Palestinians.

Mashaal has met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at least twice in the past year.

Hamas recently denied Israeli reports saying Turkey has expelled Saleh al-Arouri, a senior Hamas official who Israel says is in charge of training terror cells in the West Bank.

In recent months, Mashaal was seen to be bolstering ties with Saudi Arabia and Russia, and drifting away from traditional ally Iran. Meanwhile, the rival Palestinian Authority has been working to strengthen ties with the Islamic Republic, with PA President Mahmoud Abbas announcing that he planned to visit Tehran soon.

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