The Emir of Qatar received a heros welcome during a landmark visit to Gaza on Tuesday,becoming the first head of state to visit the Palestinian territory since the Islamist militant Hamas seized control of the coastal strip five years ago.
The landmark visit by Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani handed the ruling Hamas branded terrorists by the West and isolated by an Israeli blockade its biggest diplomatic victory since taking power. It was also a strong sign of the rising power of oil-rich Qatar,and the mounting influence of Hamas parent movement,the Muslim Brotherhood,since last years Arab Spring uprisings.
While Gazans celebrated the Emirs arrival,the rival Palestinian government of Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank was less enthusiastic. Israel condemned the visit as undermining peace.
While Abbas has welcomed Qatars plans to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to impoverished Gaza,he also stressed in a phone call with the Qatari leader this week that he is the internationally recognised leader of the Palestinians.
Israel denounced the visit.
It is quite strange that the Emir of Qatar should take sides with Hamas,that he will favour Hamas over Fatah that he would even decide to take sides in the Palestinian internal conflict, said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman,Yigal Palmor.
The Emir was received by Gazas Hamas prime minister,Ismail Haniyeh,who said the visit sent a powerful message. Gaza is not alone and Palestine occupies the hearts of Arabs, Haniyeh said. Your visit today officially announces the break of the economic blockade and political blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip by the forces of injustice.
He said the Emir had promised a total of $400 million of aid projects,an increase over earlier plans for $250 million in aid.