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Qatari emir to visit Gaza Tuesday: Hamas-linked agency

Emir of Qatar will visit Gaza to discuss the opening of several construction and development projects in the strip

AFP , Sunday 21 Oct 2012
Meeting
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (L) and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal (R) sit on either side of Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani during a meeting to sign an agreement in Doha, 6 February 2012 (Photo: Reuters)
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Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani is to travel to Gaza on Tuesday in the first such visit by an Arab leader since Hamas took over in 2007, a news agency close to the ruling Islamist movement said.

"The emir of Qatar will come to Gaza on Tuesday to open several projects in the strip," the Shihab news agency quoted an unnamed Hamas official as saying. There was no immediate confirmation from Hamas officials.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Palestinian official confirmed to AFP the Qataris were in talks with the office of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas who heads the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority over the planned visit to Gaza. Last month, Mohammed al-Emadi, Qatar's envoy to the Hamas-run territory, said Doha was to invest $254 million (195 million euros) in rebuilding Gaza.

He said the project would involve the construction of roads, housing and infrastructure, as well as agricultural development. On Saturday, Emadi told AFP that Cairo had given permission for all the necessary building materials to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt. Over the past year, diplomatic ties between Gaza and Qatar have warmed.

In January this year, Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya paid his first visit to the Gulf emirate. Around the same time, the Islamist movement's exiled chief Khaled Meshaal shifted his political base from war-torn Damascus to Doha.

Several months later, Qatar delivered 30 million litres of fuel in a bid to ease a chronic energy crisis in the territory, which is still subjected to a partial Israeli blockade. In recent days, Qatari flags have appeared on the streets of Gaza alongside pictures of Haniya with the Qatari emir which were taken when he visited Doha.

Huge hoardings have also been put up, showing posters reading: "Thank you Qatar for keeping your promises."

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