Dec. 7 - As exiled Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal visits Gaza, a Palestinian analyst says that after the recent conflict, the Jewish state can no longer be considered as the only military power in the area. Sarah Sheffer reports.
Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal makes his first visit to the Gaza Strip on Friday where he'll make a symbolic stop at the house of the group's founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, seen here. As Hamas now celebrates its 25th anniversary, Palestinian analyst Jihad Harb says the movement has grown over the past few years. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) PALESTINIAN ANALYST, JIHAD HARB, SAYING: "Hamas started to form a wide movement among Palestinians because of the historic legacy it took from the Muslim Brotherhood and also because of what it did in the first Intifada." But he said they didn't start to play a big role until the 1990s when it began its militant acts and suicide bombings in Israeli cities. The group then gained power by capitalising on dissatisfaction with rival faction Fatah. Their victory in 2006 legislative elections came as a surprise to many. And in 2007, Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in a brief war with forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Meshaal's Gaza visit comes after an eight-day battle between Israeli warplanes and Palestinian rockets last month. Around 170 Palestinians were killed, mostly civilians, and six Israelis lost their lives. But after the ceasefire, Hamas supporters celebrated in the streets. Harb says the brief war marked a significant shift in the balance of power in the region, with Hamas showing new strength.