October 23, 2012

Qatar visit breaks Gaza ice, delights Hamas

By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA, Oct 23 (Reuters) - The Emir of Qatar embraced the Hamas leadership of Gaza on Tuesday with an official visit breaking the isolation of the militant Palestinian Islamist movement, to the dismay of Israel and rival, Western-backed Palestinian leaders in the West Bank.
Israel said it was "astounding" that Qatar, a U.S.-allied Gulf state whose oil and gas permit it to punch way above its diplomatic weight, would take sides in the Palestinian dispute and endorse Hamas, branded as terrorists in the West. The emir had "thrown peace under the bus", an Israeli spokesman said.
The Gaza Strip on the Mediterranean coast, is all but cut off from the world, under blockade by Israel and Egypt by land and sea to obstruct the import of arms and military equipment.
In the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas's arch-rival, said it hoped the visit would not undermine efforts to rebuild Palestinian unity or signal approval for a separate Palestinian territory in Gaza.

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