Qatari emir in historic Gaza visit
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, is set to arrive in the Gaza Strip to inaugurate a $254-million Qatari investment project to rebuild the impoverished and overcrowded coastal enclave Al Jazeera reported.
The leader of the Gulf nation will be the first head of state to visit Gaza since the imposition of a widespread international boycott of the Palestinian territory.
"This visit has great political significance," said Hamas government spokesman Taher al-Nunu.
"He is the first Arab leader to break the political siege."
The investment project seeks to build 1,000 homes for poor families in the devastated Khan Younis area in the south of the Strip.
The 41km-long Gaza Strip, home to 1.6 million people, sustained major damage during a huge 22-day Israeli military operation in December 2008 and January 2009.
Khan Younis has been particularly hard hit during the international blockade of Gaza, imposed since 2007, and during the half-decade before that. A 2011 EWASH report revealed that 90-95 per cent of Gaza's water is safe to drink.
In a phone conversation on the eve of the visit, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the emir's intentions to help the people of Gaza, under an Israeli-led blockade since the Hamas takeover.
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 were part of Egypt's effort "to break the siege on the people" of the territory.
Qatar has played a key role in the reconciliation process. Earlier this year, the emir brought together Abbas and Hamas' supreme leader in exile, Khaled Meshaal, to make a deal.
Under the arrangement, Abbas was to lead an interim unity government to pave the way for new elections in the Palestinian territories.
That deal is yet to be implemented