Palestinian Islamic Resistance leader and elected prime minister of Palestinian Authority (PA) in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, left Gaza on foreign tour on Sunday for the first time since elected in 2006. He is scheduled to visit Egypt, Sudan, Qatar, Bahrain, Tunisia and Turkey.

During his two-week tour, he will hold discussions with senior officials from the Muslim countries about illegal Israeli settlement activities in East al-Quds (Jerusalem) and possible development projects for Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

Ismail Haniyeh was invited by Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan whose government has pledged $300 million in aid to Hamas.

Earlier, Haniyeh had invited Sheikh Dr. Qaradawi to visit Gaza.

“The Arab Spring has opened a wide horizon for us and we must take advantage to promote the interests of our people,” he told reporters before crossing Gaza’s land border into Egypt.

Israeli prime minister Benji Netanyahu has said that he will not negotiate with US-Israel double agent PA president Mahmoud Abbas if the later agreed on a unity government with Hamas.

Haniyeh is favoured by many in Hamas to stand as a candidate in an election for the Palestinian presidency slated for May 4, 2012, although officials in the group have said it was too soon to discuss candidates.

Hamas has taken a neutral stand since the internal unrest in Syria began earlier this year. Many Hamas officials and their families have left Syria in recent weeks. Haniyeh appealed for calm in Syria: “We have called for preserving Arab blood and for using dialogue and understanding between all the components of Arab countries,” he said.

Haniyeh’s first stop will be in Cairo. Egypt mediated a prisoner swap deal between Hamas and Israel that was completed last week and it is currently overseeing the implementation of a reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah.

Ismail Haniyeh leaves Gaza to visit Muslim states | Rehmat calling