x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Malaysian PM's rare Gaza visit shrouded in secrecy

Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak will visit the Gaza Strip this week in rare visit by a foreign leader to the impoverished Palestinian territory.

KUALA LUMPUR // Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak will visit the Gaza Strip this week, an official said today, in what would be a rare visit by a foreign leader to the impoverished Palestinian territory.

Najib will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Anifah Aman and other officials on the one-day visit on Tuesday, an aide to the prime minister told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The aide declined to give details of the visit or its purpose, saying that an official statement would be issued on Monday.

In Gaza, officials said Najib would arrive from Egypt via the Rafah border crossing, and would meet Hamas premier Ismail Haniya before holding a joint news conference.

The trip will also visit Gaza's city's main Shifa hospital and the parliament building. The delegation was expected to deliver medical supplies, Hamas officials said.

Mainly Muslim Malaysia, a long-standing staunch supporter of the Palestinians' aspirations to statehood, does not have diplomatic ties with Israel.

During the conflict in Gaza last November, Najib urged international powers to influence Israel to halt what he called its military aggression against the Palestinians.

The prime minister had said Malaysia was deeply concerned at the crisis and ready to help in any way possible. He urged Hamas, the Islamist movement which runs Gaza, to refrain from action that would cause the conflict to worsen.

A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas ended the November 14-21 fighting that left 177 Palestinians dead – including about 100 civilians – as well as six Israelis – four civilians and two soldiers.

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamid bin Khalifa Al Thani made a landmark trip last October to Gaza, the first such visit by a head of state since Hamas took over the territory in 2007.