Qatar in Gaza: Trying to Buy Peace?
After pouring millions into the Gaza Strip for reconstruction projects, Qatar’s agenda in the region is still unclear, though it is certain that the emirate is attempting to expand its sway in local politics.
Gaza - A visit from the Qatari Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, and his wife Sheikha Mozah – or at least one of them – is expected very soon in Gaza.
This had led to the Strip’s security forces being put on high alert from north to south.
The Hamas government has confirmed the arrival of a high level official delegation in the coming days, in order to inaugurate a reconstruction project, but refuses to confirm who will come.
Qatar recently contributed $245 million to reconstruction projects in Gaza that are to be launched sometime this month.
Palestinian sources have reported that the emir will be arriving in Gaza in the coming week in what will be the first visit by an Arab head of state to the Strip.
The Islamic University television station, Kuttab, reported that preparations are underway for such a visit, pointing out that an advance delegation – lead by the Qatari ambassador Mohammad al-Ammadi – had entered the Strip through the Rafah crossing.
Some sources, however, have told Al-Akhbar that they expect Sheikha Mozah to visit the Strip alone.
Hamas’ security forces have been in a high state of alert, with hundreds of policemen being posted all along Salah al-Din road, which runs from the north of the strip all the way to the Rafah crossing in the south.
Even though many rightly assumed that such steps were being taken in anticipation of the Qatari visitors, Hamas officials refused to comment on the reasons behind these security measures.
Security officials within Hamas’ executive committee are insisting that the deployment of security forces throughout Gaza are part of the police training exercises that started last week and are intended to improve police capabilities.
Gazans aren’t convinced by the government’s story.
Some are saying that the show of force is part of a campaign by the Hamas government to display its strength to the world especially after a recent documentary about Hamas capabilities in Gaza was aired on al-Jazeera.
Gaza resident Mohammad al-Babli speculated that what is happening may have something to do with a visit by the Emir of Qatar, but added that Washington still views Mahmoud Abbas as the Palestinian president and may very well veto the emir’s plans.
Another resident, Numan al-Safi, is primarily concerned with the traffic jams that the security deployment has caused, saying that neither a visit by the emir nor even by the US president will change anything in Gaza as long as Hamas does not want it.
Most of the commentary about the expected visit on social networking sites tended to be sarcastic in nature, particularly in light of the difficult daily conditions that Gazans must bear.
Journalist Sherene Khalifa commented on the possible visit by the emir, saying “it makes no difference whatsoever,” for it will not solve deeply rooted problems like the electricity crisis and water shortages, nor will it bring about reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
Others simply questioned what Qatar wants from such a visit and “why now, at this particular time? Does it want to rebuild Gaza?”
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.