Qatari Emir’s Visit to Gaza Is a Boost for Hamas
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani is used to basking in the limelight. But when the emir of Qatar arrived in Gaza on Tuesday - the first Arab leader in years to visit the impoverished coastal strip - he was hailed for breaking its siege, demonstrating his country’s huge and growing influence in the Middle East.
Palestinians rolled out the red carpet for the emir as his black Mercedes bumped along a rutted main road that he has promised to rebuild, past white and maroon Qatari flags, the song Thank You, Qatar playing endlessly on local radio and TV.
Sheikh Hamad flew to Egypt and crossed the border into Gaza, a move billed as breaking the blockade in force since the Islamists of Hamas took power in 2007. It also underlined the ability of the tiny, fabulously rich Gulf state to punch above its weight internationally.
He arrived with 90 tonnes of aid and pledged $400m (£250m) to invest in housing and infrastructure to replace property damaged in the 2008-09 war with Israel.
Flanked by his wife, the elegant and high-profile Sheikha Mozah, he spoke to a large crowd at Gaza’s Islamic University, the biggest event of a six-hour stay.