Gaza 'fertile ground' for Islamic State recruiters: Qatar minister

Gaza 'fertile ground' for Islamic State recruiters: Qatar minister
Qatar's foreign minister has warned the impoverished Gaza Strip, blockaded by Israel for a decade, could be a "launchpad" for Islamic State extremists.
2 min read
28 November, 2016
Qatar's foreign minister says if Gaza is not addressed, IS recruiters will easily flourish [Getty]
The Gaza Strip is fertile ground for Islamic State militants to thrive, Qatar's foreign minister said Saturday.

Palestinian infighting and a decade-long Israeli blockade could turn the impoverished enclave into a "launching pad" for recruiters of the extremist group, Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdulrahan al-Thani said.

"If we will leave them as they are, people from Daesh can recruit them easily. They can start operations from there easily," he told Reuters, using an Arabic acronym for the group.

"It (Gaza) can transform also as a launching pad for extremism and for terrorism ... That's why we need to put an end to this," he said.

The small oil-rich Gulf state is a major backer of Hamas, the armed movement which has maintained its control over the Strip for almost a decade despite conflicts with Israel and a rift with Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Many of the besieged territory's 2 million population live in poverty and struggle to find work. Israel and Egypt have accused Hamas of being a terrorist group exploiting Gaza's suffering for its political gain - charges the group denies.

Pro-Islamic State social media accounts have accused Hamas of arresting their supporters in Gaza.

Qatar has no diplomatic relations with Israel and strained ties with Egypt's military-backed government, which has kept its border with the Gaza Strip largely closed since the 2013 overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.

Doha has paid the salaries of Gaza public sector workers and built new homes for Palestinians after a 2014 war with Israel.

The Qatari donations, as well as its hosting of Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal since 2012, have buoyed Gaza's de facto Islamist rulers, irking Israel and the US-backed Palestinian administration based in the occupied West Bank.

Sheikh Mohammed said that advancing Palestinian unity efforts and easing the blockades should not be "forgotten about" because of war unfolding across the Middle East.

"We believe this will be a step for having some relief for the people of Gaza. Forgetting Palestine - postponing it until later - will be much riskier," he said, referring to the Palestinian goal of creating a state in the West Bank and Gaza.