Qatar’s Emir and first lady Sheikha Moza are expected to visit Gaza this week, according to a news report by Gaza-based TV station Al Kitab.
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani’s trip would be the first official state visit by an Arab leader since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.
The government there has yet to be recognized as legitimate by much of the international community, which widely views President Mahmoud Abbas, who governs out of the West Bank, as the leader of the Palestinians.
Thus far, Qatar media has been silent on the visit, and no official confirmation has come from the government that the trip will take place. But Al Kitab asserts that a Qatari delegation is already on the ground preparing for the Emir’s arrival.
Analysts told the National that the Emir’s visit is a reward to Hamas leaders for breaking ties with Syria’s embattled president, Bashar Al Assad.
The newspaper reports:
Hamas leaders hope (the Emir’s) presence will provide a boost to its legitimacy after years of crippling Israeli blockade and diplomatic isolation by much of the international community.
The visit will be of concern to Israel, which considers Hamas a terrorist organisation and mortal enemy, and could further undermine discreet Israeli-Qatari diplomatic relations that have been strained in recent years.
Two weeks ago, Qatar opened the first diplomatic office in Gaza since Hamas began governing the territory, saying it is intended to oversee the $254 million it has pledged for infrastructure-building projects there.