Radical Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi on Wednesday started a visit to Hamas-ruled Gaza, crossing via Rafiah, on the border with Egypt.
AFP reported that Egyptian-born al-Qaradawi, who is a citizen of Qatar and close to the Muslim Brotherhood, arrived in Gaza shortly after 9:30 p.m. local time.
Sheikh al-Qaradawi led a delegation of 50 clerics from 14 countries and was greeted by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, according to AFP.
"Our whole ambition is to die on the path to Allah, and for long life to Palestine," he said on arrival, adding that he was last in Gaza in 1958.
"I am sure we will conquer. Nobody thought that the people would triumph and oust the tyrants who ruled Egypt and Tunisia. And Syria will also emerge victorious, as well as Islam," he said, referring to the Arab Spring revolts.
Haniyeh, in a welcome address, told al-Qaradawi it was "an honor for us to receive the sheikh of the Arab Spring on the soil of Palestine."
Qaradawi said the aim of the three-day trip to Gaza was to "support its people and participate in lifting the (Israeli) blockade against them."
Al-Qaradawi has in the past said in a religious edict that Muslims should not visit Jerusalem “because it requires dealing with Zionist embassies to obtain visas.”
The edict added said that “Such visits might also give legitimacy to the occupation and could be seen as normalization.”
Qaradawi provided the religious sanction for the suicide bombing campaign against Israel. In January 2009 he claimed that Hitler had put the Jews in their place and that the Holocaust was "divine punishment".
His visit to Gaza was condemned by the Palestinian Authority, which said such visits were "harmful to the Palestinian people.”
"The Palestinian Authority's position has been clear; each visit of political significance which gives legitimacy to Hamas' rule in Gaza is harmful to the Palestinian people and their interests," PA minister of endowment Mahmoud al-Habbash said, according to PA-based Ma’an news agency.
"Al-Qaradawi should have taken back the Fatwa he issued considering visits to Jerusalem by Muslims illegal according to the Islamic law because the holy city is under occupation," al-Habbash told Ma'an.