The leader of Qatar, Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, made a historic visit to the Gaza Strip on Tuesday to inaugurate a rebuilding project in the Strip funded by his country, according to the Qatar News Agency (QNA). The news agency noted that the Qatari Emir is the first Arab leader to visit Gaza since 1967.
The apparent prestige of the visit of a major Arab leader to Gaza comes in contrast to the increase in violence from the Strip against Israel. Rocket and other terror attacks had increased in recent months, even prior to the massive rocket barrage that was unleashed just hours after the Emir’s visit. Dozens of rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza since Tuesday night.
Hamas’ website claimed the Emir’s visit was politically significant. Hamas, recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States and others, has ruled Gaza since it kicked out the rival Fatah party in 2007. Fatah is led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Al Jazeera correspondent Nicole Johnston noted the move is a boost to Hamas, and problematic for Fatah, since Al Thani didn’t visit any of their cities in the West Bank.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, October 24, 2012)