The prince of oil-rich Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, and his wife, Mouza Bint Nasser, arrived in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning. He is the first foreign leader to visit Gaza since
They were greeted by Ismail Haniyya, Prime Minister of the Hamas government in Gaza, several ministers and members of the Legislative Council, and by leaders of Islamic factions.
Hamas avoided inviting other organizations, such as , which is one of the largest and oldest Palestinian organizations.
Thousands of Hamas supporters lined his route, waving Palestinian and Qatari flags as the convoy, with the sheikh in a black Mercedes limousine, bumped along the rutted main highway that Qatar has promised to rebuild.
The aim of the visit was to inaugurate a $400 million Qatari investment project to rebuild Gaza, which sustained major damage during an Israeli military offensive in early 2009.
According to analysts, Hamad's visit gave Gaza's Hamas rulers an important diplomatic victory, as his visit is considered another step in his efforts to cement his policy of encouraging Islamists in order to confirm his country's position as a regional power.
On the other hand, his visit disappointed Israel and Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, as they fear the Qatari leader's visit will deepen the split between the two territories.
Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs, said, "We hope the Qatari prince would encourage people who do not embrace violence.
"It is strange that the Qatari prince favors Hamas over Fatah, since he never visited the West Bank," Palmor said.
"Israel has nothing to do with this visit because the prince is getting to Gaza through Rafah crossing, controlled by Egyptians and Palestinians," Palmor pointed out.
After Hamas's coup and seizure of Gaza, issued a decision to discharge Hamas’s prime minister, thus Haniyeh is not the Palestinian Prime Minister but he is only the Prime Minister of Hamas government in Gaza.
In Gaza, we welcome all visitors, but the visit of the Qatari prince was not welcomed by most of the people of Gaza. Despite the financial support, it seems that the visit of the prince to Gaza was to support the split of the Palestinians created by Hamas in 2007, when it seized, with a bloody coup, all the Palestinian Authority’s institutions, either civil or military.
It is well known that Hamas follows the Muslim Brotherhood. The question that most Gazans ask is, why the prince of Qatar -- who has a strong relationship with Israel and the Western countries agreed to visit Gaza, while the Egyptian president, who was the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt before taking over the presidency -- declined to visit Gaza?!
Regarding the projects that will be supported by Qatar in Gaza, there is no single project for the people whose houses were bombed during the Gaza war and still live in tents. For this, there are doubts, with some thinking that the disbursed funds of Qatar will be for the interest of Hamas and its members only and not all Gazans.
By the way, the Qatari opposition was not satisfied with the support of the prince of Qatar to Gaza. They say he should have supported his people in Qatar, as many of them do not have a house, instead of spending Qatari funds on other countries and supporting plots in the so-called Arab Spring, which turned out in many countries to be autumn and violence, not a spring.
Finally, the visit was not a real surprise, as the prince of Qatar is in fact a personal friend of , head of Hamas’s political bureau. After the outbreak of the Syrian revolt, Meshaal moved from Damascus to the Four Seasons Hotel Doha in Qatar. He is also a friend of some Israeli officials, and this is not a secret.
Some Palestinian sources said the prince, after his brief visit to Gaza, will go to Israel. However, this news has not been confirmed by other sources.