Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah crossed into the besieged Gaza Strip today in a major move towards reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, after a decade of tensions.
Hamas announced last week that it was handing over administrative control of the Gaza Strip to a unity government headed Hamdallah.
Hamas' reversal was the most significant step towards elusive Palestinian unity since the government was formed in 2014. It failed to function in Gaza because of disputes between Hamas and Fatah over its responsibilities.
Analysts said narrowing internal divisions could help Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas counter Israel's argument that it has no negotiating partner for peace.
A Hamas police honour guard and hundreds of Palestinians, many of them waving Palestinian flags, welcomed Hamdallah outside the Hamas-controlled checkpoint, down the road from Israel's Erez border crossing through which the prime minister and his delegation passed.
"It is a day of Eid, a national holiday," said Abdel-Majid Ali, 46. "We hope this time reconciliation is for real."
Last month, Hamas disbanded its Gaza shadow government.