Last updated: 30 October, 2012

Bahraini prince to visit Gaza on Thursday

A high-level Bahraini delegation will arrive in Gaza on Thursday to open two UNRWA schools, the enclave’s Hamas rulers said on Tuesday, denying it would be led by one of the royal princes.

“A high-level Bahraini delegation will visit Gaza on Thursday headed by Mustafa al-Sayyed, Secretary General of the Bahraini Royal Charity Organisation (RCO),” said a terse statement issued by Taher al-Nunu, spokesman for the Gaza government.

The statement was issued shortly after two separate sources — one close to the Hamas government and another from the UN refugee agency — said the delegation would be led Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa, a son of the Bahraini king.

Government sources in Manama also denied claims that Sheikh Hamad would visit Gaza on Thursday, saying the delegation had already set off under the leadership of Sayyed.

“There was never any question about Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad visiting Gaza,” a Bahraini government source told AFP.

He said it was the fourth time the charity had visited Gaza and said the delegation would deliver humanitarian aid and inaugurate several schools there.

Earlier a source close to UNRWA said the delegation would be led by the prince, who chairs the charity.

“Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa will come on Thursday to open two schools in Gaza City which have been funded by the Bahrain Royal Charity Organisation,” he told AFP earlier on Tuesday.

The visit had also been confirmed by a source close to the Hamas government, who said he would meet with Gaza prime minister, Ismail Haniya.

Haniya visited Bahrain earlier this year as part of a regional tour that also took him to Qatar, Kuwait and Iran.

Last week, Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani visited Gaza in the first visit by a head of state since Hamas seized the territory in 2007, ousting forces loyal to the Palestinian Authority of president Mahmud Abbas.

It was something of a diplomatic coup for Hamas, which has been shunned by international dignitaries over the past five years.

Government spokesman Taher al-Nunu told AFP a number of other “top-level Arab officials” were expected to visit Gaza soon and meet Haniya, but he did not give further details.

Four Bahraini activists took part in a six-ship flotilla that tried to breach Israel’s blockade on Gaza in May 2010, which ended in bloodshed when Israeli troops stormed the lead ship, killing nine Turks.

In January 2009, Bahrain set up a national committee for the support of the Palestinian people, which falls under the remit of the RCO.