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Critics object to location of new Qatari committee headquarters in Gaza

May 30, 2017 2:52 P.M. (Updated: May 30, 2017 5:53 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- After Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh and the head of a Qatari committee tasked with Gaza reconstruction, Muhammad al-Ammadi, laid the cornerstone for the committee's new headquarters, Palestinian activists and politicians have complained that the new construction was being built on the remains of a helipad used by late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat -- claims that Hamas has denied.

The Gaza City building will also serve as a residence for al-Ammadi in his capacity as Qatari ambassador to Gaza.

Former Palestinian Justice Minister Freih Abu Middein, who served under Arafat, urged the Emir of Qatar in a letter to move the construction to another location.

"Your Highness, as I write to you, I know and appreciate the size of aid your country has provided, but as a resident of Gaza Strip, I frankly tell you that the site chosen for the headquarters and ambassador's residence is of special importance to every Gazan citizen, because it is the landing field of martyr Yasser Arafat's plane, whose ruins remain there until this day after Israel destroyed that iconic site."

He highlighted that there were several other appropriate locations to build the headquarters.

Palestinian People's Party politburo member Walid al-Awwad also criticized the building plan for its alleged location on the landing field, which was destroyed by Israeli forces in 2001.

"I urge Palestinian President Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) and the Palestinian government to make illegal the construction of a headquarters and ambassadorial residence on the landing field of our late president," al-Awwad wrote in a post on Facebook.

The media office of the Hamas-run government in Gaza denied that the structure was being built on Arafat’s landing field. "The headquarters of the Qatari committee is being built on public land near the landing field," the statement read, criticizing those for deliberately disseminating "false information" about the construction site.

The Hamas statement added that the land in question had been trespassed and illegally used for years, and that only recently “violations” -- structures built without permission -- were “removed,” that is to say, demolished.

Hamas said that the land has been allocated for various public projects, including a mosque and the headquarters for the Qatari committee.

"The landing field remained unchanged and is being used as training ground for security forces," the media office added, affirming that Gaza authorities “would continue to respect and be proud of the nationalistic heritage of Abu Ammar,” using the teknonym for Yasser Arafat, "whose house and belongings are still preserved despite all wars and dire conditions the Gaza Strip witnessed."

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