Rana E. Manna
Last updated: 22 October, 2012

Gaza gets ready to greet the Qatari emir

As the first head of state to enter the blockaded Gaza Strip since Hamas took over in 2007, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamas bin Khalifa al-Thani, is set to visit the coastal enclave along with his wife and accompanying delegation on Tuesday.

With Palestinian and Qatari flags being hung along the streets of Gaza and posters plastered along the walls, the people of Gaza as well as the government and its security forces are more than ready to receive the Emir of Qatar; the most prominent Arab leader to visit the Gaza Strip.

The personal adviser of Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, Mr. Esam Al-Deeles said: “The government is ready to welcome the Emir and his wife the minute they arrive.”

With Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani officially visiting the Palestinian enclave, Qatar has assured the inauguration of reconstruction projects worth nearly half a billion dollars to rebuild infrastructure destroyed by the Israeli attacks in 2009.

“The projects for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip will begin directly after the arrival of the Emir of Qatar. A series of meetings will be held with the Prime Minister, the government and the Palestinian MPs,” added Mr. Al-Deeles.

Thanking Sheikh Hamas bin Khalifa al-Thani for the reconstruction projects over the phone on Saturday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will personally be visiting the Gaza Strip to receive the Emir of Qatar to show his gratitude.

Security procedures were also taken into consideration guaranteeing the Qatari official a safe journey to and from Gaza. Safety measures were already being reinforced in places where the emir will be expected like the Egyptian border crossing at Rafah.

The police spokesman in Gaza, Mr. Ayman Al Batnigi, said, “We have gone through the procedure of assessing all the security measures from the minute the Emir and his delegation enter through Rafah crossings until they leave. The safety of the Emir is our number one concern.”

Meanwhile, Israel has expressed concerns regarding the Emir’s decision to visit Hamas-ruled territory.

“We find it weird that the emir doesn’t support all of the Palestinians but sides with Hamas over the Palestinian Authority (in the West Bank) which he has never visited,” Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP.

“The emir has chosen his camp and it is not good,” he added.

Doha said it had opened its first diplomatic office in the Palestinian enclave, looking to spend around US $500 million in projects which would involve the construction of roads, housing and infrastructure, as well as agricultural development.

Gaza requires roughly 3,500 homes because of Israel’s devastating three-week war that began in December 2008, killing as many as 1,400 Palestinians, stated the construction union.

After years of struggle under the Israeli blockade, the Islamic movement leadership can only hope that the presence of the Emir of Qatar will boost up its legitimacy as well as the enlivening of the economy in the Gaza Strip.