Arab League Chief to Make First Visit to Gaza Strip

Arab League: Amr Moussa's visit is part of efforts to break the Israeli blockade on the Strip.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa will visit the Gaza Strip next week, the first visit for the organization's chief to the besieged territory, Arab League spokesman Hisham Youssef said Monday.

Moussa's visit is part of the Arab League's efforts to break the blockade on the Strip, Youssef said.

A 47-member delegation from the Arab Parliament, an organ of the Arab League, went to Gaza on Sunday through Egypt's Rafah border crossing to declare their solidarity with the Palestinian people.

The visit comes after Israeli forces killed nine activists on a vessel that had been part of a flotilla attempting to break the blockade on Gaza, which has been in force since the Islamist movement Hamas took control of the territory in 2007.

Moussa will visit the UN refugee agency's office in the strip as well as buildings demolished during Israel's three-week offensive on the territory last year, which left more than 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.

He will also discuss with Hamas officials an Egyptian-brokered Palestinian reconciliation process with Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah organization, which runs the West Bank.

The process halted after Fatah signed an Egyptian-brokered agreement in October, but Hamas balked at the deal.

Youssef added the Arab League had started its preparations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas Damascus-based politburo chief Khaled Mashaal.

Hamas welcomed the visit and described it as a "practical approach towards lifting the blockade," hoping it could lead to a permanent opening of the Rafah crossing with Egypt.