Doha (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani (pictured), will visit the Gaza Strip today. It is the first time since 2007, when Hamas took power in Gaza, that a head of state has visited the area marked by an Israeli blockade and a conflict with the Palestinian Authority.
The rich sheik is set to launch a project of 254 million U.S. dollars for the reconstruction of the Palestinian territory, often the target of bombing by the Israeli army.
In the last two years, Qatar has become one of the most generous benefactors of Hamas, the Islamist movement accused of terrorism. In turn, Hamas, which had as its first sponsor Syria over the past two years has separated itself from Bashar al-Assad, criticizing its violence against the opposition. Since 1999, the political bureau of Hamas has always been based in Damascus last February Haniye Ismail, head of the government in Gaza, said that the office would be transferred to Egypt and Qatar.
The closer relations between Doha and Hamas are a further step towards the isolation of Syria, a plan that Qatar has been pursuing for years.
Qatar - which has not allowed any Arab spring within its borders - was the first Arab country to ask for a military intervention by the international community against Damascus and led the attack against Gaddafi's Libya. Along with Saudi Arabia, it finances opposition groups fighting Assad with money and weapons.
Qatar is also an ally of the United States and maintains relations with Israel. The decision to support Hamas in Gaza has provoked concerned comments from the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli state.
A spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas said that the help of Qatar is good for the people of Gaza, but it is also "necessary to preserve the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people." In 2007, Hamas took power in Gaza exiling the legitimate leaders of Fatah.
Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry considers Qatar's decision to support the Islamist movement "not good".
For many observers, aid to the Gaza Strip is part of a plan of Qatar (and Saudi Arabia) to detach Hamas from Iran to isolate Tehran. At the same time, it serves to reinforce Sunni fundamentalist Islam and the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood that has emerged in the region after the Arab Spring.