Israeli soldier injured in Gaza explosion ahead of visit by the ruler of Qatar

 

An Israeli soldier has been injured in an explosion along the Gaza security fence, ahead of a scheduled visit by the ruler of Qatar to the Palestinian territory, Israel's military said today.

The soldier was moderately hurt. The military had no further details about the blast.

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani's visit today will be the first by a head of state to Gaza since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power there five years ago.

The emir is to deliver more than 250 million US dollars (£156 million) in aid.

The visit is seen in Israel to reflect the rising influence of Hamas's parent movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, since last year's popular uprisings.

Islamist groups have made gains throughout in the region. Qatar has been a key ally of rebel and opposition movements.

Sheikh Hamad's visit to Gaza comes amid the deep reservations of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas ousted Mr Abbas's forces in Gaza during its June 2007 takeover of the territory, leaving the president in control only of the West Bank.

In a phone conversation on the eve of the visit, Mr Abbas welcomed the emir's intentions to help the people of Gaza - under an Israeli-led blockade since the Hamas takeover - but reminded the Qatari leader that he remained the internationally-recognised leader of the Palestinians.

"He stressed the necessity to preserve the legitimate representation of the Palestinian people... and he asked him to urge Hamas in Gaza to go for reconciliation and to end this split," said Mr Abbas's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rdeneh.

Another Abbas aide, Nimr Hamad, used even stronger language.

"Such visits give Hamas the impression that the visitors recognise their rule and that would reinforce the split and not help the reconciliation," he said.

Yesterday, however, it was clear that the trip would go ahead.

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 was part of Egypt's effort "to break the siege on the people" of the territory.

A convoy of some 30 brand new SUVs and mini-vans, along with several dozen Qatari security men, crossed through the Egyptian border in preparation for the visit.

Streets were decorated with white and maroon Qatari flags and signs thanking the Gulf nation for its support.

Hamas's Interior Ministry, which oversees security, said it had a "well-prepared plan" to protect the emir, deploying thousands of security men and blocking roads to Gaza City's main football stadium, where the Qatari leader was expected to address a packed audience.

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

That deal, like previous reconciliation attempts, quickly foundered, in large part because of opposition by Gaza's Hamas leaders.

In a statement, Hamas said the emir's arrival had deep significance. "It is the first visit by an Arab leader at this level to Gaza," it said. "This breaks the political isolation of the government and opens the door to break the siege."

When he comes through the Rafah crossing along Gaza's southern border with Egypt, Sheikh Hamad will discover a territory hit hard by war and international isolation. Hamas, whose violent ideology calls for the destruction of Israel, is considered a terrorist group by Israel and the West.

The Qataris have said the visit is purely humanitarian. The emir is expected to launch £159 million of building projects, including three roads, a hospital and a new town that will bring thousands of jobs to the impoverished territory.

The economic boost is sure to help Hamas's standing, especially at a time when the rival government in the West Bank struggles to stay afloat because of international donors' failure to deliver promised funding.

The visit reflects the flexible foreign policy that Qatar has taken in recent years.

The oil-rich Gulf state expanded its regional influence during the Arab Spring uprisings that toppled dictators in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt last year, lending support to protesters linked to the region-wide Muslim Brotherhood.

Hamas is an offshoot of the Brotherhood, but has adopted a more militant ideology as part of its conflict with Israel.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Admin Assistant

£12000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An expanding Insurance Brokerag...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Mechanic / Plant Fitter

£24000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Lancashire based engineeri...

Recruitment Genius: Service Advisor

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Recruitment Genius: Service Advisor

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders