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GAZA CITY: The Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani received a hero’s welcome during a historic visit to Gaza yesterday, becoming the first head of state to visit the Palestinian territory since the Islamist movement Hamas seized control of the coastal strip five years ago. The landmark visit by the Emir handed the ruling Hamas its biggest diplomatic victory since taking power.
The Emir was accompanied by H H Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani.
On arrival from Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, the Emir was received by Gaza’s Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah who said the visit sent a powerful message. “Gaza is not alone and Palestine occupies the hearts of Arabs,” Haniyah said. “Your visit today officially announces the break of the economic blockade and political blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip by the forces of injustice.”
Hundreds of Palestinians lined the route, waving Palestinian and Qatari flags. The Emir later walked down the red carpet inspecting an honour guard. He then proceeded to the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG).
Addressing a ceremony at the IUG, the Emir hailed the steadfastness of the people of Gaza against Israeli aggression, stressing that it was a pride for all Arabs. The Emir praised the Gazan people’s courage as they face “the enemy’s aircrafts and internationally-prohibited weapons,” stressing that the Palestinian cause with its ramifications and concerns remains a “bleeding wound in the Arab body”.
The Emir said that Israel violates the Palestinian land day after day through practices of settlement and Judaization, particularly in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, because Arabs lack the capability to face it due to their division and dispersed stances, the international community’s inability to protect international legitimacy through the UN-approved binding decisions, and also because of the double standards policy that “deprives the Palestinians of their right to return and establish their independent state on their national soil”.
The Emir called on Palestinians to end the division between the West Bank and Gaza, noting that it is the source of evil for the Palestinian cause. The Emir demanded a new phase of reconciliation and agreement in line with the foundations reached in Doha and Cairo.
The Emir added that Arab support for Gaza is a duty rather than a favour, stressing that Qatar was and will always be in the forefront of supporters of the people of Gaza and Palestine as a “national and humanitarian duty”.
The Board of Trustees of the Islamic University of Gaza granted the Emir and Sheikha Moza the Honorary Doctorate degree in recognition of their support for the Palestinian people and their just cause.
The University President also gave the Emir keys of abandoned homes of the people of Palestine since 1948, the University Shield, a bottle of olive oil from the land of the university and other bottle of soil from Gaza as well as the University Shield.
The University President also gave Sheikha Moza stones from Gaza, a bottle of olive oil from the land of the university and the University Shield.
Haniyah presented the Emir with the Decoration of Palestine and Gaza in recognition of his support of the Palestinian people. Also, Amal Mohammed Haniyah, the wife of Haniyah presented Sheikha Moza with Decoration of Palestine and Gaza in appreciation of the role of Her Highness and efforts in supporting the Palestinian people. Haniyah also presented the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister with the Decoration of Palestine and Gaza for his efforts in support of the Palestinian people.
Earlier, the Emir and Haniyah witnessed the signing of a number of agreements. These include a project for the establishment of Hamad Residential Town, a project for the construction of Hamad Hospital for Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Limbs, a project to rebuild Salah Al Din Street, a project to re build Rashid Street (the coastal road) and a project for re-building Al-Karama Street
The Emir approved the top-up of the Qatari grants for Gaza rehabilitation projects from $264m to $415m for all projects.
The Emir laid the foundation stone for Hamad Medical City project, Hamad Residential Town and the re-establishment of Salah Al Din Street in the Gaza Strip.