In late December 2011, Hamas prime minister in Gaza Isma’il Haniya made an official tour of the region that included visits to Egypt, Sudan, Turkey and finally Tunisia. This was his first official trip abroad since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip five years ago. Especially noteworthy was his five-day visit to Tunisia, on which Haniya was accompanied by 20 of his government officials, and which came in response to an invitation by the new Tunisian government, headed by Hamadi Al-Jabali of the Islamist Al-Nahda party. Haniya was the first leader to visit Tunisia after the establishment of the new government there. He was greeted at the airport by Tunisian Prime Minister Al-Jabali, government ministers, and Al-Nahda party chairman Rached Al-Ghannouchi, and was received by an honor guard and a band playing the Palestinian and Tunisian anthems – honors usually reserved for visiting heads of state. During his visit, Haniya met with Prime Minister Al-Jabali, President Munsif Al-Marzouqi, government ministers, Constituent Assembly Chairman Mustafa bin Ja’far, and senior Al-Nahda officials, including Al-Ghannouchi. In his meeting with the president, Haniya invited him to visit Gaza and the latter accepted the invitation. Haniya toured several cities and visited a number of mosques, and delivered a Friday sermon to an audience of thousands at a mosque in Kairouan. In the capital Tunis, he was granted the special honor of attending the conversion ceremony of a Frenchwoman converting to Islam. Haniya’s Tunisian hosts expressed their belief in the legitimacy of the Hamas government and Haniya as its head. Hamas, for its part, indeed regards the visit to Tunisia, and the entire regional tour, as an indication of its growing acceptance in the Arab and Muslim world. Haniya stressed that the tour broke the political and economic siege on Gaza, and emphasized the connection between the Tunisian and Palestinian revolutions. He promised to continue on the path of jihad and resistance, and to refrain from recognizing Israel or relinquishing a single inch of Palestinian soil.
Read the rest here.
A series of earlier posts covered various aspects of Haniyeh’s tour.