The emir of pro-Western Qatar is set to become the first head of state to visit Gaza Strip, raising serious geopolitical concerns over the future direction of the Hamas-dominated Palestinian enclave.
According to Israel Hayom, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani is officially visiting the Palestinian enclave to inaugurate reconstruction projects worth over $250 million.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh issued a statement confirming the visit and urging “our people to express their good hospitality in welcoming the great visitor of Gaza.”
Israel and the West consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization. Hamas has largely remained isolated by the international community over its refusal to recognize Israel and renounce violence.
Palestinian officials in the Fatah-ruled West Bank, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, were “very disappointed” with the emir’s decision to visit Gaza without their consultation or support.
“The visit does not serve the unity of the Palestinian territories, the people and the political system. On the contrary, the visit poses a threat to unity and our political system,” said Palestinian political analyst Adel Abdel Rahman, who is affiliated with Fatah.
The visit of the emir from a major Sunni Muslim Gulf State could also represent a major geopolitical change for Hamas. For years, Hamas relied on weapons and aid from Shi’a Muslim Iran and its ally Bashar al-Assad in Syria—bonded by their mutual hatred for Israel. However, many Sunni Gulf leaders fear the growing threat of Iran’s nuclear program and support the anti-Assad rebels in Syria. Hamas may be turning to the Gulf States for support as the fortunes of Iran and Syria decline.