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Exiled leader returns for Hamas celebration

Palestinians are celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hamas, the group that runs the Gaza Strip. The gathering was being led by exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, making his first ever visit to the war-torn territory. He received a hero's welcome when he arrived on Friday, two weeks after bloody clashes between Hamas and Israel left some 170 Palestinians dead. A Hamas spokesman called Meshaal appearance a challenge to Israel, saying "Gaza is free and will decide who will visit the strip." The ceremony will be attended by members of Fatah, which lost control of Gaza during a 2007 civil war. It raised hopes among Palestinians that the two factions may ready to bury the hatchet. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) RESIDENT OF HEBRON, HANI ABU HAYKAL, SAYING: "His visit is due to the victory of the resistance and I hope it will lead to national and religious unity between the two parts of the country." Along with the Hamas anniversary, the rally Saturday commemorates the start of the first Palestinian uprising, or initifada, against Israel.

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