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Arab Idol winner gets hero's welcome in Gaza

In this Saturday, June 22, 2013 photo released by the MBC Group, singer Mohammed Assaf, second right, receives the Arab Idol award in Beirut, Lebanon. On Saturday night, Assaf became the first Palestinian to win the Arab world’s version of American Idol, setting off wild celebrations across the Palestinian territories. After the victory, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared the singer an honorary ambassador. (AP Photo/MBC Group)In this Saturday, June 22, 2013 photo released by the MBC Group, singer Mohammed Assaf, second right, receives the Arab Idol award in Beirut, Lebanon. On Saturday night, Assaf became the first Palestinian to win the Arab world’s version of American Idol, setting off wild celebrations across the Palestinian territories. After the victory, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared the singer an honorary ambassador. (AP Photo/MBC Group)

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — The first Palestinian winner of the Arab Idol contest has returned to the Gaza Strip in a chaotic welcome by thousands waiting to catch a glimpse of him.

A convoy of cars drove through the crossing between Egypt and Gaza Tuesday afternoon. Mohammed Assaf's manager, Wael Yazagi, confirms the singer has returned to Gaza.

In this Saturday, June 22, 2013 photo released by the MBC Group, singer Mohammed Assaf is seen on the Arab Idol stage in Beirut, Lebanon. On Saturday night, Assaf became the first Palestinian to win the Arab world’s version of American Idol, setting off wild celebrations across the Palestinian territories. After the victory, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared the singer an honorary ambassador. (AP Photo/MBC Group)In this Saturday, June 22, 2013 photo released by the MBC Group, singer Mohammed Assaf is seen on the Arab Idol stage in Beirut, Lebanon. On Saturday night, Assaf became the first Palestinian to win the Arab world’s version of American Idol, setting off wild celebrations across the Palestinian territories. After the victory, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared the singer an honorary ambassador. (AP Photo/MBC Group)

Thousands more waited outside Assaf's home in the Khan Younis refugee camp. Palestine TV broadcast the homecoming live, but there was no immediate sign of the singer.

Assaf's weekend victory in the TV competition has given Palestinians a sense of pride and national unity.

However, Palestinian divisions were apparent during Assaf's return to Gaza, ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas. Devout Muslims consider TV singing contests as forbidden by religion.