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Hamas leader to make first visit to Gaza, official says

A senior Hamas official in Gaza says the Islamic militant group's leader is poised to pay his first visit ever to the coastal strip.

Khaled Mashaal is set to visit Gaza next week to mark the movement's 25th anniversary and congratulate its leaders and militants for battling Israel during a recent 8-day offensive.

Mashaal was previously prevented from crossing into Gaza by longtime Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak. Hamas says it is coordinating the visit with Egypt's new Muslim Brotherhood leaders.

The official, who spoke anonymously Saturday, citing security concerns, called the visit "historic."

Hamas violently overtook Gaza from forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party in 2007. It has yet to reconcile with Fatah, which rules the West Bank.

Until recently, Mashaal had been based in Syria.