UPDATE 1-Qatar's emir heads to Gaza on historic trip
DUBAI Oct 23 (Reuters) - The Emir of Qatar will on Tuesday be the first head of state to visit Gaza since Egypt and Israel launched a blockade of the Palestinian enclave in 2007, breaking the isolation of its rulers Hamas.
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani landed at Egypt's al-Arish airport in the northern Sinai Peninsula on his way to Gaza, an Egyptian official said.
The official Qatar News Agency earlier said Sheikh Hamad, who has led Arab efforts to support rebels in Syria and Libya during the Arab Spring revolts, had left Doha with a large delegation including his wife Sheikh Moza, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim and other ministers.
Sheikh Hamad is officially visiting the territory to inaugurate reconstruction projects worth over $250 million, which an envoy of his oil-rich, conservative Arab emirate unveiled in Gaza last week.
The emir will be the first foreign leader to go to Gaza under the rule of Hamas, an Islamist movement seen as a terrorist organisation by Western powers but whose influence and aspirations in the Middle East conflict may be hard to ignore.
Western-allied Gulf Arab states are trying to lure Hamas away from its alliance with Iran, whose nuclear energy programme has raised the prospect of a war with Israel.
Israel and Gaza are in a state of perpetual low-level conflict, marked by sporadic rocket attacks from Gaza by Islamic militant groups and air strikes by the Israeli forces.
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