Gaza strip: In what is being billed as a landmark visit by a head of state, Qatari ruler Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani arrived in Gaza on Tuesday amid tight security.
The Emir of Qatar is the first head of state to visit Gaza since the Islamic militant Hamas came to power there five years ago.
With Palestinian and Qatrai flags decorating the route, the Emir received a warm welcome by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who declared it a historic day.
One of the wealthiest countries in Middle East, Qatari emir is to deliver more than $250 million in aid for a construction project in strife-stricken Palestinian territory. This is being seen as a move that will bolster Hamas and ease its international isolation.
After Hamas fell out with Syria due to the anti-regime protests there, Qatar has surfaced as its main ally.
The visit is seen in Israel to reflect the rising influence of Hamas` parent movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, since last year`s popular uprisings.
The visit by Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani comes over the deep reservations of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas ousted Abbas` forces in Gaza during its June 2007 takeover of the territory, leaving the president in control only of the West Bank.
Beefing up the security ahead of Qarari ruler’s visit, the Hamas interior ministry said it had deployed thousands of security personnel and blocked roads to Gaza City`s stadium, where the Emir is expected to address a crowd.
In a moderately untowards incident ahead of Emir’s visit, an explosion was reported along the Gaza border, that wounded an Israeli soldier, said Israeli military.
With Agency Inputs