Haniyeh: Qatari visit marks end of Gaza isolation

Hamas leader declares end of "unjust siege" as first visit by head of state to Gaza Strip since 2007 draws fire from PA, Israel.

Qatari emir greeted in Gaza by Haniyeh 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
Qatari emir greeted in Gaza by Haniyeh 370
(photo credit: Reuters)
The visit of the emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Thani, has ended the political and economic blockade on the Gaza Strip, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Tuesday.
His declaration came during the inauguration of a new housing project in Khan Yunis together with the visiting emir.
“Today we declare victory over the blockade through this blessed visit,” Haniyeh said.
Addressing bin Thani, the Hamas leader added: “Today you have officially broken the unjust siege imposed on the Gaza Strip by the forces of repression and darkness.”
Haniyeh revealed that Qatar has decided to increase its funding of various projects in the Gaza Strip from $245 million to $400m.
He said that the housing project, which has been named after the Qatari emir, will provide homes to 3,000 families.
In addition, Qatar will invest $15m. in a Palestinian medical center in the Gaza Strip, Haniyeh said.
He described bin Thani’s visit as a “courageous” act. It was the first visit of a head of state to the Gaza Strip since Hamas took control over the area in 2007.
The emir’s visit is seen by many Palestinians as a diplomatic victory for the Islamic movement and a severe blow to the Palestinian Authority.
Addressing Palestinians, the Hamas leader said: “This is your day of victory. Today, the victory is in the Gaza Strip and tomorrow it will be in liberated Jerusalem.”
He reiterated the Palestinians’ refusal to give up “one inch of the land of historic Palestine.”
Bin Thani’s convoy arrived in the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing amid unprecedented security measures by Hamas and the Egyptian authorities.
After touring Khan Yunis and Rafah, the convoy headed to Gaza City, where the emir laid the corner stone for a project to renovate the main Salah Eddin highway and other major roads.
Later, the Islamic University awarded bin Thani and his wife, Moza, honorary doctorates in appreciation of their support for the Palestinians.
The president of the university, Jamal Khudari, presented the emir with a key symbolizing the refugees’ right to return to their original homes inside Israel, as well as a bottle of olive oil and a box containing “soil of Palestine.”
In a speech at the university, bin Thani called on the Arab countries to participate in the effort to rebuild the Gaza Strip. He said that should be at the top of the Arab world’s list of priorities.
The emir added that his visit would not have been possible were it not for the “Egyptian revolution and the efforts of President Mohamed Morsi.”
He also urged Hamas and Fatah to end their dispute and implement the Qatari-brokered reconciliation accord between the two rival parties.
Bin Thani criticized Israel for creating new facts on the ground by building in the settlements.
The PA leadership, meanwhile, continued to express fear that the Qatari leader’s visit to the Gaza Strip would “consolidate” divisions among the Palestinians.
Some officials in Ramallah expressed outrage over the visit, saying it would embolden Hamas and further tighten its grip on the Gaza Strip.
The PLO Executive Committee, which held a meeting in Ramallah, urged the Arab countries to refrain from supporting the creation of a separate Palestinian entity in the Gaza Strip.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary-general of the PLO, said that creating a separate Palestinian entity in the Gaza Strip would only serve Israel’s interests. He also urged the Arab countries to work toward ending the Fatah-Hamas rivalry.