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Qatar Emir arrives in Gaza on politically significant visit

Tuesday October 23, 2012 08:18:42 PM, IINA

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Doha: The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani has arrived in the Gaza Strip today afternoon to inaugurate a $254-million Qatari investment project to rebuild the impoverished and overcrowded coastal enclave.


Sheikh Hamad bin crossed into Gaza by car from Egypt amid tight security, and was greeted by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya.

The leader of the Gulf nation is the first head of state to visit Gaza since the imposition of a widespread international boycott of the Palestinian territory.


"This visit has great political significance," said Hamas government spokesman Taher al-Nunu. "He is the first Arab leader to break the political siege."


The investment project seeks to build 1,000 homes for poor families in the devastated Khan Younis area in the south of the Strip. The 41km-long Gaza Strip, home to 1.6 million people, sustained major damage during a huge 22-day Israeli military operation in December 2008 and January 2009.

Khan Younis has been particularly hard hit during the international blockade of Gaza, imposed since 2007, and during the half-decade before that.


In a phone conversation on the eve of the visit, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the emir's intentions to help the people of Gaza, under an Israeli-led blockade since the Hamas takeover.


A late night statement from the office of Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi said his country welcomed the emir's visit to Gaza, which it said were part of Egypt's effort "to break the siege on the people" of the territory.


Qatar has played a key role in the reconciliation process. Earlier this year, the emir brought together Abbas and Hamas' supreme leader in exile, Khaled Meshaal, to make a deal. Under the arrangement, Abbas was to lead an interim unity government to pave the way for new elections in the Palestinian territories. That deal is yet to be implemented

Meanwhile, Israeli airstrikes killed two Gaza fighters yesterday as they clashed with troops who crossed the border on the eve of a landmark visit by the Qatari emir, medical sources said.


The flareup provoked threats of revenge from the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the ruling Hamas movement, and a pledge from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that there would be no immunity for those firing on the Jewish state.


Two airstrikes took place around the northern town of Beit Hanun where fighters were firing mortar shells at an Israeli tank and several military vehicles that had crossed the border into Gaza territory, witnesses and security sources said.

The first strike hit north of Beit Hanun, critically wounding four Qassam Brigades militants, one of whom later died of his injuries, medics and the militant group said.


As the clashes continued, Israel launched a second air strike east of Beit Hanun, killing a militant from the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) and critically wounding another man, the same sources said.


The Qassam Brigades confirmed that the first strike had killed one of its militants and critically wounded another three, naming the dead man as Abderahman Abu Jalaleh, 25, and describing him as a local commander. The second strike killed a PRC militant whom the group named as Yasser Al-Tarabin. The identity of the injured man was not immediately clear.

Hamas fighters usually observe a de facto truce regarding Israeli targets, but the rare show of force against the military force appeared to be a direct response to the incursion.


“The Zionist enemy continues its crimes and arrogance against our land and people... because of its desire to blow up the situation,” the Qassam Brigades said. “The enemy will not be able to tie our hands and his crime will not go unanswered.”


Netanyahu also issued a warning of his own. “The real thing we have is rockets. We’ve got Hamas, supported by Iran, firing rockets at us.. We’re not going to let anyone arm themselves and fire rockets on us and think that they can do this with impunity. They’re not going to get away with it,” he said on meeting the Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair.






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Picture of the Day

Mrs Mohsina Kidwai along with Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) VC Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Zameer Uddin Shah riding the traditional chariot on her way to the Athletics Ground. Mrs Kidwai was the Chief Guest of the Sir Syed Day special function organised at the AMU on October 17.



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