Gaza, Oct 23: Qatar’s Emir, Shaikh Hamad Ben Khalifa Al Thani concluded Tuesday an official seven-hour long visit to the Gaza Strip, ruled by Islamic Hamas movement, the first of its kind by a head of state since 2007.
The Emir and his delegation entered the Gaza Strip Tuesday morning and left in the late afternoon through Rafah border crossing with Egypt. During the visit, Qatar decided to increase its grant for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip to up $400 million.
The Qatari Emir also called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas movement to end the division between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and implement the Qatar-brokered reconciliation understanding reached between Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in Doha last year.
“I’m glad to visit in the Gaza Strip which has been the bridge that linked between Africa and Asia, but now I’m sad to say that this bridge is not as active as it used to be,” the Emir said during a reception ceremony at the Islamic University where he and his wife were granted honorary doctorates.
Soon after arriving in Gaza on his visit, Al Thani said: “The Palestinians should think of their reality and realize that their split is a source of harm to their cause and the Arabic cause.”
The split between the Palestinians “was more painful than the Israeli aggression” he said.
The Emir laid the cornerstone of a housing complex bearing his name in the southern city of Khan Younis shortly after he arrived in the enclave Tuesday. The project comprises 1,000 apartments for homeless Gazans and is part of a series of rebuilding plans Qatar has declared in the coastal territory.
Hamas Premier Ismail Haniyeh, who accompanied his guests, said that the arrival of the Emir was “a declaration of victory on the siege”.
The schedule of the Emir and his delegation was shortened, with a rally at Palestine football stadium in Gaza city and the inauguration of a hospital for handicapped Palestinians being cancelled. At the end of the ceremony, the convoy drove back to Rafah crossing, and then to fly from Sinai back home.
Haniyeh and senior leaders of the Islamic movement organized an official red-carpet reception for the Qatari dignitaries at the crossing. Haneya also thanked Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi for “taking care of the Qatari trend” toward Gaza.
Fatah Party, the main Hamas rival and various left-wing factions in Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) announced in separate statements they decided to boycott the visit and not to receive the Emir. Representatives of Islamic Jihad in Gaza had only joined the reception ceremony at Rafah crossing.
While Hamas has been receiving the Emir of Qatar, an Israeli army officer was seriously injured after a roadside bomb exploded at his armored vehicle near the borderline between southeast Gaza and Israel, according to an Israeli Radio report.