Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal kneels to the ground in prayer.
It is his first visit to the Gaza Strip after being exiled from Palestinian land for 45 years.
After passing through the Egyptian border crossing, Meshaal was greeted by dozens of officials from various Palestinian factions.
He will spend barely 48 hours in the coastal enclave and attend a mass rally on Saturday that has been billed as both a commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the founding of Hamas and a "victory" celebration following the November fighting.
In a press conference, he said that though he had never before been there, he felt he was returning to Gaza, as he has always had it in his heart.
56-year-old Meshaal left the Palestinian West Bank as a young boy in 1967 and, before Friday, had never set foot in Gaza.
Later he is expected to visit the home of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was assassinated by Israel in 2004 as well as that of Ahmed Al-Jaabari, the group's military commander killed in an Israeli strike last month.
Hamas leader makes first Gaza visit (1:10)
Dec. 7 - Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal says Gaza has always been in his heart after entering the Strip for the first time. Sarah Sheffer reports. ( Transcript )