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Bahrain Follows Qatar, Sends Delegation to Gaza

A high-level Bahraini delegation will arrive in Gaza on Thursday, the Hamas government announces.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 10/31/2012, 3:12 AM

Hamas PM Ismail Haniye
Hamas PM Ismail Haniye
Israel news photo: Flash 90

A high-level Bahraini delegation will arrive in Gaza on Thursday to open two UNRWA schools, the Hamas government said on Tuesday, according to AFP.

A Hamas spokesman denied, however, the delegation would be led by one of the royal princes.

"A high-level Bahraini delegation will visit Gaza on Thursday headed by Mustafa al-Sayyed, Secretary General of the Bahraini Royal Charity Organization (RCO)," said a statement issued by Taher al-Nunu, spokesman for the Gaza government.

The statement was issued shortly after two separate sources, one close to the Hamas government and another from the UN agency, said the delegation would be led Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa, a son of the Bahraini king.

Government sources in Manama also denied claims that Sheikh Hamad would visit Gaza on Thursday, saying the delegation had already set off under the leadership of Sayyed.

"There was never any question about Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad visiting Gaza," a Bahraini government source told AFP.

He said it was the fourth time the charity had visited Gaza and said the delegation would deliver humanitarian aid and inaugurate several schools there.

Earlier, a source close to UNRWA said the delegation would be led by the prince, who chairs the charity.

"Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa will come on Thursday to open two schools in Gaza City which have been funded by the Bahrain Royal Charity Organization," he told AFP.

The visit had also been confirmed by a source close to the Hamas government, who said he would meet with Hamas’ prime minister Ismail Haniyeh.

The visit by the Bahraini delegation comes a week after Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani visited Gaza, in the first visit by a head of state since Hamas violently seized control of the region in 2007.

Al-Nunu told AFP a number of other "top-level Arab officials" were expected to visit Gaza soon and meet Haniyeh, but he did not give further details.

The visit by the emir of oil-rich Qatar upset the Fatah movement led by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

The Palestinian Authority has been physically and politically fractured since Hamas’ bloody takeover of Gaza, leaving Abbas desperate to carry out political moves as a show of his power.

One such move is the PA’s unilateral statehood bid, which Abbas formally announced in September. The PA plans to ask the UN General Assembly to grant it "super-observer" status that could give it access to UN institutions and agencies.

Middle East expert Dr. Guy Bechor said on Monday that the unilateral bid is what he termed "a political suicide", adding he believed the move reflects Abbas’ his feeling that Hamas has become the true leader of the PA Arabs and that he has lost his power.

Hamas and Fatah attempted to resolve the feud between them when they signed a reconciliation deal in May of 2011. The deal has repeatedly faltered as the parties spar over its implementation.