Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak pledged solidarity with the Palestinians on his first trip to Gaza yesterday, and backed reconciliation efforts between Hamas and the rival Palestinian Fatah movement.
Najib, who entered via the Rafah crossing from Egypt along with his Foreign Minister Anifah Aman and other officials, was met by Ismail Haniya, the Hamas prime minister.
Speaking in Rafah shortly after his arrival, Najib said his visit was intended "to show solidarity and our support for the struggle of the Palestinian people".
"We may come from thousands of miles away … but we are one Umma [Muslim nation] and we believe in the struggle of the Palestinian people," he said.
Najib also expressed support for renewed reconciliation efforts by Hamas and Fatah, including attempts to form a consensus government to pave the way for new elections.
Haniya made a reference to Israeli legislative elections that were under way yesterday, warning that "the trend of the Israeli elections suggests a move from an extremist government to a more extreme government. This requires us as Palestinians, and Arabs, and Muslims, to build a unified strategy to confront rising Zionist extremism".
After the press conference, Najib was to visit Gaza City's Shifa hospital and the parliament building. His delegation was expected to deliver medical supplies.
Muslim-majority Malaysia, a staunch supporter of the Palestinians' aspirations to statehood, does not have diplomatic ties with Israel.
The visit was made possible in part by Egypt's decision to loosen some of the restrictions on travel through its Rafah border crossing with Gaza.