GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — A prominent Islamic scholar who is making a landmark visit to the Gaza Strip has declared that Israel has no right to exist.

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh (C) meets with Egyptian Cleric and chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi (L) and former Sudanese president Abdel Rahman Swar Al Dahab (R) after their arrival in Gaza City on May 9, 2013. Al-Qaradawi arrived on May 8, 2013 for his first visit to Gaza Strip with a delegation of Muslim scholars. | MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images

Yusuf al-Qaradawi said Thursday that "this land has never once been a Jewish land. Palestine is for the Arab Islamic nation." The Qatar-based cleric was made famous by his popular TV show and is widely respected in the Muslim world.

Al-Qaradawi arrived in Gaza late Wednesday for a visit seen as a boost of legitimacy for the ruling Hamas militant group.

Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 following several days of fighting against the rival Palestinian faction Fatah.

The Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, which governs in the West Bank, has condemned al-Qaradawi's visit. It says his presence is cementing the rift between the two Palestinian factions.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.