Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) expressed their displeasure ahead of today’s visit by Qatar’s Emir Hamad bin Thani to the Gaza Strip, fearing that it will boost Hamas’ international legitimacy.
The emir’s arrival represents the first visit by a head of state to the Gaza Strip since Hamas violently seized power there in 2007, driving out the Fatah Party that dominates the PA led by Mahmoud Abbas. A rift has existed between the two factions ever since. The emir is scheduled to arrive in Gaza today via the Rafah crossing with Egypt to launch a £158m construction project in Gaza. Although the emir called Abbas on Sunday to notify him of his trip, he did not invite Abbas to join him.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor expressed concern that the visit indicates the emir’s support for Hamas, which is classified as a terror group by the European Union and United States. Palmor said, “It is quite strange that the emir of Qatar should choose sides within the Palestinian camp, and choose the wrong side while he is at it…What this visit means is that he sides with Hamas, and not with the PA.”
Meanwhile, although the PA would not directly condemn the emir’s visit, spokesmen for Mahmoud Abbas were determined to remind the Qatari leader that Abbas remains the internationally recognized leader of the Palestinians. An Abbas aide, Nimr Hamad told AP, “Such visits give Hamas the impression that the visitors recognize their rule and that would reinforce the split and not help the reconciliation.”
In related news, violence continued in the Gaza region early Tuesday morning as an IDF officer was injured by an explosive device while on a routine patrol of the border fence. In another incident hours earlier, terrorists fired mortar shells at an IDF border patrol, who returned fire. In addition, four rockets fired from the Gaza Strip landed overnight in open areas in southern Israel.