The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip has replaced a large billboard depicting Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh alongside Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi with another billboard praising Qatar, a move observers say is a message of Palestinian dissatisfaction with Egyptian policies concerning Gaza.
The new sign, centrally located in Gaza City, reads “Thank you Qatar, you have fulfilled your promise,” a reference to multi-million-dollar Qatari investments in infrastructure and construction projects in Gaza.
Gazans are upset with Egypt following the destruction of hundreds of smuggling tunnels between Egyptian-controlled Sinai and the Gaza Strip, in response to a terror attack on an Egyptian army outpost in August that left 16 soldiers dead. The attack is believed to have emanated — at least partially — from Gaza, the Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat reported Thursday.
Hamas has asked Egypt to halt the destruction of the tunnels until a free trade zone is created at the Rafah border crossing, a request the Egyptian government has rejected.
The Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya reported on Wednesday that Egypt has been serving as intermediary between Israel and Hamas during the latest violent flare-up this week, trying to convince Hamas to refrain from launching rockets and mortar shells at southern Israel and assert control over the entire Gaza Strip.
In late September, Qatar announced the opening of a diplomatic office in Gaza, meant to oversee aid and building projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It was the first diplomatic office to open in Gaza since Hamas took control of the territory over five years ago.
Qatar will reconstruct three thoroughfares in Gaza that were damaged in Operation Cast Lead in early 2009, at an investment of $148 million. It will also establish a new hospital and build a 1,000-unit housing project.
Despite the falling out with Egypt, a large banner depicting Haniyeh and Morsi side by side still adorns Falasteen Square, the largest roundabout in Gaza, A-Sharq Al-Awsat reported.