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Emir Of Qatar Visits Gaza, Becoming First Head Of State There Since 2007

The Emir of Qatar visited the Gaza Strip today. It is the first time a head of state visited the Hamas-controlled territory since Egypt and Israel instituted a blockade in 2007. Hamas, remember, is considered a terrorist organization by the United States.

Reuters reports:

"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."

NBC News reports that Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani was given a red-carpet welcome and he was accompanied by his wife, his prime minister and his foreign minister. The Emir, NBC said, would not meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmood Abbas, who has been Hamas' foe.

Officially, reports Al Jazeera, the Emir made the visit to inaugurate "a Qatari investment project worth hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild the impoverished and overcrowded coastal enclave."

But the big deal here, said Al Jazeera, is that the visit "really ends [Hamas'] political isolation."

NBC's read of the situation is that Gulf Arab states are trying to cut into Iran's relationship with Hamas.

The AP however disagrees with that analysis. Qatar, it says, is walking a tight rope diplomatically: In Syria for example, it is aiding the rebels, yet it still maintains close ties to Iran, which has been backing the regime of Bashar Assad.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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