Thousands of excited Gaza residents have mobbed the area's southern border crossing with Egypt to welcome home the winner of the Arab Idol talent contest.

Around 4,000 people gathered early Tuesday for the arrival of Mohammad Assaf, the 23-year-old who is the first Palestinian to win the popular reality show. His victory on Saturday sparked huge celebrations in the West Bank and Gaza.

Assaf is widely viewed as a unifying symbol in the Palestinian territories. His victory won praise from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and even some officials from Gaza's conservative Hamas rulers.

Assaf is on the Egyptian side of the border and is expected to cross shortly.

After a stop in the Palestinian territories, he plans on moving to Dubai to continue his recording career.