Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani - Archive
Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, emir of Qatar, speaking at the 63rd annual United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008. Photo by Bloomberg
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The Emir of Qatar is about to become the first Arab ruler to visit the Gaza Strip.  Palestinian sources report that the Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, is due in the next few days in a visit indicative of how Qatar-Hamas relations have improved since Hamas leadership's recent move from Damascus to Qatar.

Preparations for the visit and efforts to ensure that it takes place are under way, according to a report on al-Kitab, a satellite TV station owned by by the Islamic University of Gaza, quoting sources in the Strip.

A Qatari delegation headed by Ambassador Mohammed al-Emadi has arrived in Gaza through the Rafah crossing to monitor preparations.  Other delegations from the Emirates are due in the next few days.

Some in Gaza have also linked a major exercise carried out in the last few days by Gaza security forces to the Emir's expected arrival, part of the Hamas regime's preparation for the historic visit.

The Emir will be accompanied by his wife, Sheikha Mozah, who will oversee and sponsor the implementation of several rehabilitation projects, including repair of the vast damage still remaining from Israel's December 2008 Operation Cast Lead.

Qatar also says it intends to invest $254 million in construction projects, including infrastructure, in the Strip.  In the past Qatari officials have promised to supply oil directly to the Strip, in order to lessen the of the Gaza Power Company generating plant's dependence on Israeli fuel.