Popular Muslim cleric visits Gaza, bolsters Hamas - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Popular Muslim cleric visits Gaza, bolsters Hamas

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -

An influential Muslim preacher is making one of the most high-profile visits to the Palestinian territory since the Islamic Hamas seized control in 2007.

   Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a prominent scholar in Qatar who is widely-respected in the Muslim world, arrived Wednesday in the Gaza Strip for his first visit there as a top cleric.

   The visit has bolstered Hamas after facing years of Israeli and Egyptian blockades. The U.S., the European Union and Israel consider Hamas a terror group.

   Turkey's prime minister is also planning to visit later this month, despite U.S. pressure to delay the trip.

   Al-Qaradawi's visit also deepens the bitter division between Gaza's hard-line Islamist rulers and the West Bank's Western-backed Palestinian leaders.

   West Bank officials are angered by the visit because it emboldens its Hamas rivals.

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