Qatari Emir Is First Leader To Visit Gaza

Trip to Enclave Is Diplomatic Breakthrough for Hamas

By Reuters

Published October 23, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The Emir of Qatar entered the Gaza Strip on Tuesday for a visit that broke the isolation of it Islamist rulers, Hamas, but disappointed Israel and mainstream Palestinian leaders in the West Bank.

Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani crossed into Gaza from Egypt at the head of a large delegation on what is billed as a humanitarian visit to inaugurate $250 million worth of reconstruction projects.

It was the first trip by a head of state to Gaza since 1999 and the emir was given a red-carpet welcome by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who declared it a historic day for the enclave, which backs on to the Mediterranean sea.

The Western-backed Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas’s arch-rival, said it hoped the visit would not undermine efforts to rebuild Palestinian unity or signal approval for a separate Palestinian territory.

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said it was “astounding” that Qatar was taking sides, noting that the emir “has never dignified the PA with a visit”.

Hamas seized control of the enclave in 2007 after a brief battle with the armed wing of Abbas’ Fatah movement. It refuses to renounce violence or to recognise Israel’s right to exist and it is ostracised by the West as a terrorist organisation.

Haniyeh denies Hamas is seeking to create its own state in the tiny enclave, which is under partial blockade by Israel, with Egypt helping to enforce the Jewish states’ restrictions.

The emir and his large delegation were greeted by a Hamas honour guard and Palestinian and Qatari flags decorated the route on the main road north to the city of Gaza, a key highway that Qatar will rebuild.

His visit coincided with another round in the low-level conflict between Israel and Hamas. An Israeli officer was badly injured by an explosion on the Gaza border and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised a “strong response”, which often comes in the form of Israeli air strikes.

The emir was due to make a public appearance in one of Gaza’s largest soccer stadiums, and security arrangements have been in place for days ahead of the visit, seen by Hamas as a victory after five years of isolation.

Western-allied Gulf Arab states are trying to lure Hamas away from its alliance with Iran, whose nuclear energy programme has raised the prospect of a war with Israel.

Qatar’s emir has met Israeli leaders in the past and is working hard to boost the diplomatic clout of his small country. He has also previously sought to mediate between Hamas and Fatah to end the divisions that have weakened the Palestinian cause.

Hamas says his trip would mark the beginning of the end of Israel’s blockade policy.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.