Hamas chief arrives in Gaza for first-ever visit

FILE - In this Friday Nov. 5, 2010, file photo, the leader of Hamas Khaled Mashaal addresses the crowd during a rally at the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus, Syria, Hamas’ exiled supreme leader visits the Gaza Strip for the first time this weekend on a landmark trip to the sliver of land ruled by his Islamic militant movement. The visit signals growing regional acceptance of the once isolated Hamas and even grudging acquiescence by Israel in the wake of an eight-day battle last month that ended with a cease-fire between the bitter enemies. (AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi, File)

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal has arrived in the Gaza Strip for his first-ever visit. The landmark trip reflects his militant group's burgeoning international acceptance.

Mashaal had left the West Bank as a child and currently leads the Islamic movement from Qatar.

Mashaal crossed the Egyptian border on Friday and was greeted by Hamas officials and representatives of the rival Fatah party. He kissed the ground as Palestinian orphans — children of Gaza militants killed by Israel in recent years — rushed to greet him.

Mashaal's visit comes after he led the Hamas delegation that accepted a truce to stop last month's eight-day conflict between Israel and Gaza.

Gaza officials are portraying the landmark visit as a celebration of what they call Hamas' victory in the recent fighting.