Qatari emir’s landmark visit to Gaza boosts Hamas

Qatari emir’s landmark visit to Gaza boosts Hamas

RAFAH - Agence France-Presse
Qatari emir’s landmark visit to Gaza boosts Hamas

Qatari Emir al-Thani (L) and Gaza’s Hamas PM Haniyah (C-R) attend a welcome ceremony in the Gaza Strip. AFP photo

Qatar’s emir received a warm welcome on his landmark visit to the Gaza Strip yesterday, the first by a head of state since the Hamas movement took over in 2007.

After crossing from neighboring Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the Qatari leader was warmly welcomed by a large delegation of top Hamas officials led by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah and his cabinet, as well as Salah al-Aruri, a senior member of Hamas’ exiled leadership, Agence France-Presse reported.

Al-Thani was leaded a top-level delegation including his wife, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani. Thousands of Qatari and Palestinian flags were flying across the territory to mark Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani’s visit.

The visit is something of a diplomatic coup for Hamas, whose government international dignitaries have boycotted since the movement forcibly took over the territory in 2007, ousting forces loyal to the western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

“You are today, by this visit, declaring the breaking of the unjust blockade,” Haniyah told the Qatari leader in a speech at the site of a new town to be built with emirate money. “Today we declare victory against the blockade through this historic visit,” he said, according to Reuters.

Shortly after his arrival, Sheikh Hamad travelled to the southern city of Khan Yunis to lay the foundation stone for the construction of 1,000 homes for poor families. “The emir agreed to increase the Qatari investment from $254 million to $400 million,” Haniyah also said.