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Qatar opens diplomatic office in Gaza

Office will oversee hundreds of millions of dollars in aid projects

Gulf News

Gaza City: In a boost to Gaza’s Hamas government, the Gulf state of Qatar said on Sunday it opened the first diplomatic office in the isolated territory since the resistance group took power five years ago.

Qatari officials said the office is not a formal embassy. Instead, it will oversee hundreds of millions of dollars in aid projects Qatar is funding. In June, the Gaza Strip’s sole power station began working at full capacity for the first time since 2006 with the aid of fuel received from Qatar.

In May, Qatar began shipping through Egypt and Israel some 30 million litres of fuel over the course of three months to ease Gaza’s chronic energy crisis, according to Israeli officials involved in the transfer.

Until the Qatari fuel started to flow, Gaza had been in the grip of the worst power crisis in living memory with the electricity plant forced to shut down repeatedly, causing power cuts of up to 18 hours a day. The situation was eased somewhat in April after a deal between Gaza’s Hamas government and the Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank, which agreed to supply Gaza with fuel purchased from Israel.

The newly opened office will be headed by an ambassador. It marks a key stamp of legitimacy for Hamas. Hamas’ rival, President Mahmoud Abbas, who lives in the West Bank, is seen internationally as the Palestinian leader.

Abbas has long had rocky relations with Qatar, whose Al Jazeera satellite channel is often critical of the Palestinian leader. Qatar often frequently hosts Hamas leaders.