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Originally published Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 1:28 AM

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Prominent Muslim cleric to visit Gaza

The head of Gaza's Islamic affairs ministry says the prominent Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi will visit the Hamas-ruled territory in May.

The Associated Press

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip —

The head of Gaza's Islamic affairs ministry says the prominent Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi will visit the Hamas-ruled territory in May.

It's the first visit by the Qatar-based cleric who is widely-respected through the Muslim world, and underscores his support for the Islamic militant group Hamas.

It also shows how Hamas has slowly been breaking its diplomatic isolation after years of blockade. Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also expected to visit the Gaza Strip in May. The emir of Gulf state Qatar visited last year.

Gaza minister Ismail Ridwan didn't say how long al-Qaradawi would stay. Spokespeople for the cleric weren't immediately available.

The visit is also a boon to Hamas as they battle their Gaza rivals, hardline conservative Muslims who see the militant group as too moderate.

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