Qatar confirmed that its emir will visit the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, on the first such visit by an Arab head of state since the Islamist Hamas seized control of the coastal enclave in 2007.
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani “will make a brief visit to the Gaza Strip to inaugurate a number of projects funded by Qatar as part of its efforts to rebuilt the Strip,” Qatar’s official QNA news agency said on Monday.
Sources close to Hamas had announced the landmark visit on Sunday, adding that a delegation from the energy-rich nation would be in Gaza Monday to prepare for the visit.
“The emir of Qatar will arrive in Gaza on Tuesday,” a source close to the Hamas government told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
QNA said that the emir’s wife, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, will be with him, as well as the Gulf nation’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani.
It will be the first visit to the Palestinian enclave by an Arab leader since Hamas ousted the rival Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in June 2007.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP Monday that the visit shows that the emir is backing the strip’s Islamist Hamas rulers over the Western-backed authority led by Abbas.
“The emir has chosen his camp and it is not good,” he said.