BY | October 22, 2012

Gaza, Qatar is launching a massive rebuilding project in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip without coordinating with the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and Israel, a Qatari official said Sunday.

In addition to Hamas, which wrested control of Gaza in 2007 from President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, Qatar also arranges with Egypt to deliver materials needed for the reconstruction through its territories, said Mohammed Al Ammadi, head of the Qatari Committee for Rebuilding the Gaza Strip, reported Xinhua.

“We are implementing a pure financial and technical Qatari activity for the service of the Palestinian citizens, so we do not need to arrange with other parties outside the Gaza Strip except Egypt,” Al Ammadi told Xinhua at his office, nestled in the headquarters of the Qatari diplomatic mission here, which was closed following Hamas’ takeover of Gaza.

The starting of the Qatari project would be announced next week, but Al Ammadi did not confirm nor deny that Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani will attend the cornerstone laying here.

But a source in the Qatari Committee said that serious preparations are being taken between the committee, Hamas authorities and Egypt to receive the Qatari Emir and his wife. The source said this visit “is nearly confirmed” to take place on Tuesday.

No high-ranking Arab or Western official has set foot in Gaza and met any member of Hamas since 2007. For the US and most of European countries, Hamas is a terrorist organization for refusing to recognize Israel.

Feeling grateful to Qatar, Hamas filled Gaza streets with Qatari flags and images for its Emir along banners thanking the Persian Gulf state that went ahead with the rebuilding plan.

In March 2009, international donors pledged up to $5 billion to rebuild Gaza following Israel’s three-week military offensive, in which as many as 1,400 Palestinians were killed and thousands of houses and infrastructure installments were destroyed. However, the donors wanted the money to go through the PNA, which is not functioning in Gaza.

The Qatari initiative comes at odds with the international community’s view that the reconstruction of Gaza should be done via the West Bank-based PNA, which has criticized the Qatari enterprise in Gaza, considering it a boost for Hamas.

But Al Ammadi stressed that the Qatari projects in Gaza “signal no political indications.” Since the projects will serve the Palestinian people, the PNA “should be happy since it is responsible for all Palestinians”, he said.

So far, Qatar has allocated $254 million for the first phase of the project, which is designated to be completed in two and a half years. Half of this amount would be used for the rehabilitation and paving of three major roads connecting the northern and southern ends of the coastal enclave, according to Al Ammadi.

The Qatari donation is also allocated for housing, agricultural and health projects. They include a residential complex of 2,000 housing projects and a prosthetics centre, Al Ammadi said. (IANS)

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