Jan 2 - Gaza's top political leader meets former Palestinian prisoners in Turkey and visits the Mavi Marmara ship stormed by Israel in 2010. Sunita Rappai reports.
Gaza's Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is warmly greeted by former Palestinian prisoners now living in Turkey. The Gaza leader is on a regional tour - his first since 2007- which also includes Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia and Bahrain - but not Syria. Haniyeh said he was deeply grateful to Turkey for granting residence permits to eleven former prisoners freed as part of the thousand-for-one exchange deal with Israel in October. The Gaza leader was also given a tour of the Mavi Marmara, a ship stormed by Israeli troops two years ago to stop the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. Nine Turkish citizens were killed in the raid and Haniyeh prayed with their families. The Hamas leader told a news conference later that the Arab Spring brought hope to Palestinians. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) HAMAS'S GAZA LEADER ISMAIL HANIYEH, SAYING: "The unfolding events known as the Arab Spring -- we may even call them the spring of Islam -- will support the Palestinian cause. We will see their positive effects better in the future." Haniyeh is favoured by many in Hamas to stand as a candidate in elections for the Palestinian presidency due in May. Sunita Rappai, Reuters