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Hamas leader in landmark visit to Saudi Arabia

Meshaal headed a delegation from the Palestinian Islamist movement in a two-day Umrah pilgrimage

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Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal has met Saudi King Salman during a pilgrimage to the kingdom, state news agency SPA said Saturday.

He headed a delegation from the Palestinian Islamist movement in a two-day Umrah pilgrimage to the Muslim holy city of Mecca, SPA said.

“The delegation offered Eid greetings” to King Salman during prayers at the Grand Mosque, SPA said, adding that they “praised the positive stance of the kingdom’s leadership towards the Palestinian cause.”

Eid al-Fitr is the holiday that follows on the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Hamas-linked Al-Aqsa television said the delegation also met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The relationship between Hamas and Riyadh deteriorated after the kingdom threw its full support behind Egypt’s military following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in 2013 and the subsequent crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood.

Meshaal has been based in Qatar since he abandoned his base in Damascus in 2012 after the group sided with Syrian rebels against President Bashar al-Assad.

The decision to back the rebels jeopardized Hamas’ strong links with Iran, the kingdom’s archrival in the Gulf.