The emir of Qatar today became the first head of state to visit Gaza since Hamas took direct control of the region five years ago.
An honour guard awaited Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani at Gaza's southern border with Egypt.
The visit has handed Hamas its biggest diplomatic victory since 2007.
The emir will deliver £160 million worth of aid to fund construction projects, including three roads, a hospital and a new town that will bring thousands of jobs to the impoverished territory.
The visit comes despite deep reservations by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Hamas replaced presidential forces in Gaza in June 2007 when, a year after winning parliamentary elections, it split with the presidency, leaving Fatah in control only of the West Bank.
In a phone conversation on the eve of the visit President Abbas welcomed the emir's intentions to help the people of Gaza but reminded the Qatari leader that he remains the internationally recognised leader of the Palestinians.
"He stressed the necessity to preserve the legitimate representation of the Palestinian people … and he asked him to urge Hamas in Gaza to go for reconciliation and to end this split," a presidential spokesman said.
Abbas aide Nimr Hamad used even stronger language.
"Such visits give Hamas the impression that the visitors recognise their rule and that would reinforce the split and not help the reconciliation," he said.
Hamas said the emir's arrival had deep significance. "It is the first visit by an Arab leader at this level to Gaza," it said.
"This breaks the political isolation of the government and opens the door to break the siege."
Sheik Hamad will see a territory hit hard by war and international isolation.
After the takeover Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza.
The following year Israel launched a fierce three-week military offensive in response to rocket fire out of Gaza, killing 1,400 Palestinians.
The Israeli actions hit Gaza's economy hard and much of the damage from the fighting has never been repaired.
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