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Senior Hamas Figure to Visit China

Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar says he will visit China and other Asian countries next month. The Hamas leader's trip announcement comes as Israeli air strikes on Tuesday targeted a facility near the office of the Palestinian president.

In a bid to break out of the diplomatic isolation now imposed on the new Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government, Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, who is also a senior Hamas leader, says he will visit several Asian countries including China next month. Zahar made the announcement Tuesday at a joint news conference with China's diplomatic representative to the Palestinian Territories Yang Wei Guo.

The Hamas leader says he welcomes China's decision to receive the Palestinian delegation saying he also plans to visit other Asian nations.

While not referring to Zahar's trip specifically, the Chinese envoy says China supports Palestinian rights to regain what he describes as national rights and occupied land. For his part, Zahar did not say what other Asian countries he plans to visit.

A spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry says Israel has concerns about giving recognition and legitimacy to an "unreformed Hamas."

Hamas, which formed a new Palestinian government last week, after winning Palestinian parliamentary elections in January, is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the European Union and the United States. Last week the United States instructed its diplomats and all contractors to sever ties with the Palestinian Authority. The European Union also says it will not work with Hamas. However, several countries, most notably Russia and Saudi Arabia have said international moves to isolate the Hamas government by cutting assistance will be counterproductive and hurt ordinary Palestinians.

Shortly after Mahmoud Zahar spoke on Tuesday, Israeli aircraft fired several missiles onto a largely abandoned base in the northern Gaza Strip which also houses the offices of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The area has been used by militants to launch rockets into Israel. President Abbas was in his office in the West Bank at the time of the attack. Late in the day Israeli tanks also fired shells into the northern Gaza Strip, near where rockets were fired at Israel early on Tuesday.