The emir of Qatar received a hero's welcome in Gaza today, becoming the first head of state to visit the Palestinian territory since Hamas seized control of the coastal strip five years ago. Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani's visit gave Gaza's Hamas rulers an important diplomatic victory. Hamas is considered a terrorist group by the West and its rule of Gaza is not internationally recognized. The visit reflects the rising influence of Hamas' parent movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, since the Arab Spring uprisings.
Along with the Brotherhood in Egypt, Islamist groups have made gains throughout in the region and Qatar has been a key ally of rebel and opposition movements. The rival Palestinian government in the West Bank has expressed deep reservations over the visit of oil-rich Qatar's emir, and while President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed Qatar's plans to deliver more than $250 million in aid to impoverished Gaza, he also stressed that he is the internationally recognized leader of the Palestinians. West Bank officials fear the emir's visit will deepen the split between the two territories.