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Hamas: Kerry's visit 'big sign' U.S. will engage

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

TEL AVIV, Israel – Democratic Sen. John Kerry’s visit yesterday to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip was a “big sign” of a “change” in the U.S. position toward the Islamist group, a Hamas official told WND today.

“This is part of a new era regarding Hamas in the international community,” said Mushir al-Massri, a Hamas spokesman and parliament member, speaking from Gaza.

Kerry, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, yesterday became the most senior U.S. government official to enter Gaza since 2000. The Massachusetts lawmaker announced his trip did not signal any change in U.S. policy toward Hamas, while Fox News reported he accepted a letter from the group to deliver to President Obama.

“Kerry can say there is no change, but Hamas controls Gaza. It’s very important that he came here. I hope next time the U.S. can more openly support Hamas,” al-Massri said.

He confirmed a Hamas letter was sent to Obama. He said that while he hasn’t seen the letter, he understands the communication calls for the U.S. to enage with Hamas.

“The general message is saying we hope the new administration will open dialogue with Hamas and change its position,” he said.

WND reported exclusively in November Hamas planned to send a letter to Obama. Ahmed Yousef, Hamas’ chief political adviser in Gaza, called Obama’s win a “historic victory” for the world and told WND at the time that Hamas was sending a letter of congratulation to the president-elect.

Hamas’ official charter calls for the murder of Jews and the destruction of Israel. The Islamist group is responsible for scores of suicide bombings, shootings and rocket attacks aimed at Jewish civilians.

Obama has repeatedly condemned Hamas as a terrorist organization that should be isolated until it renounces violence and recognizes Israel’s right to exist.

But that hasn’t stopped Hamas from heaping praise on the American leader.

Just after Obama’s win in November, Hamas’ Yousef called Obama’s presidency a “historic victory” for the world and an opportunity to change U.S. foreign policy toward engagement with America’s foes.

Yousef, speaking to WND by cell phone from Gaza in November, said Hamas was drafting a letter of congratulation to be sent directly to Obama. He said the current draft of the letter praised the president-elect as “another John F. Kennedy, or great Roosevelt.”

“We want to be one of the first to congratulate him,” Yousef said.

The Hamas leader said Obama’s job will be to “restore America’s dignity in the world and put an end to the wars in the region.”