A Hamas member stands guard near a
banner welcoming Sheikh Hamad in Rafah.
Qatar emir makes history, visits Hamas-run Gaza
Gaza, October 23, 2012
The Emir of Qatar entered the Gaza Strip on Tuesday for a visit that will raise the prestige of its isolated Islamist rulers in the Hamas movement, but disappoint Israel and mainstream Palestinian leaders in the West Bank.
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani crossed into Gaza from Egypt at the head of a large delegation on what is billed as a humanitarian visit to inaugurate $250 million worth of reconstruction projects.
He was given a red-carpet welcome by Hamas officials as he crossed into the small, coastal territory, which is under a stringent Israeli blockade and has restricted access for visitors via the Egyptian frontier.
Sheikh Hamad is the first head of state to visit Gaza since Egypt and Israel launched a blockade of the Palestinian enclave in 2007.
The official Qatar News Agency earlier said Sheikh Hamad, who has led Arab efforts to support rebels in Syria and Libya during the Arab Spring revolts, the delegation includes his wife Sheikh Moza, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim and other ministers.
Western-allied Gulf states are trying to lure Hamas away from its alliance with Iran, whose nuclear energy programme has raised the prospect of a war with Israel. - Reuters