Qatari leader visits Gaza

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, has become the first Arab leader to visit the Gaza Strip since its occupation by Israel in 1967.

He entered the strip by car from Egypt, to an enthusiastic welcome by Gazans.

The Qatari leader pledged $400 million for construction projects. Much of the strip's infrastructure was destroyed by Israeli bombing in 2008.

Shiekh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani
Image: Пресс-служба Президента России.

The Emir of Qatar called for unity of the various Palestinian groups. Speaking at Gaza's Islamic University, he asked, "Why are you staying divided?" "There are no peace negotiations, and there is no clear strategy of resistance and liberation. Why shouldn't brothers sit together and reconcile?"

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya said the visit demonstrated Gaza is "not alone" and broke Israel's blockade of Gaza. Israel regards Hamas as a terrorist group. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas contacted the emir directly to point out the international community recognizes Mr Abbas as the Palestinian leader.

Spokesman Yigal Palmor for Israel's Foreign Ministry said, "This is more than strange, especially since Hamas is internationally recognized as a terror group. By hugging Hamas publicly, the emir of Qatar has thrown peace under the bus."

Qatar has been active internationally in recent years. The emir founded the Al Jazeera international television news network. Qatar has negotiated in Lebanon and with the Taliban. There is also an America airbase in Qatar. The country also maintains contacts in Islamic politics and scholarship.

Qatar has the highest GDP per capita in the world at $88,000.