Gaza unrest fuels Qatar, UAE dispute

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iol pic wld Mideast Israel Palestinians~34 AP Smoke rises after an Israeli shelling at the Shijaiyah neighborhood in Gaza City. Picture: Khalil Hamra

Dubai - Abu Dhabi has accused the Al-Jazeera TV channel and websites close to Qatar of “fabricating” information suggesting UAE supported Israel's operation in Gaza, in the latest tensions between both countries.

Relations between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain sank to a new low in March when the three governments withdrew their ambassadors from Doha, accusing it of meddling in their affairs and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

Islamist movement Hamas, the main power in Gaza - where two weeks of deadly violence has left more than 500 Palestinians, many of them civilians, and 18 Israeli soldiers killed - is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.

UAE State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash demanded an “official apology” from Doha-based Al-Jazeera for publishing news stating that a meeting had taken place between foreign ministers of the UAE and Israel, local media said Monday.

The website of Al-Jazeera Mubashar Misr, reported on Saturday that UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan had met with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman and proposed “financing” the Israeli “aggression” against Gaza “on the condition that Hamas would be completely eliminated.”

Al-Jazeera was quoting a website named “Arabi21”, which in turn said it was quoting Israel's Channel 2.

Local Emirati media reported that Channel 2 has denied it had published such information.

On his Twitter account, Sheikh Abdullah wrote that “I have chosen not to respond” to such claims.

Local media has also slammed a campaign by Qatari Tweeters accusing members of the Emirati Red Crescent mission in Gaza of being “spies” for Israel.

Columnist Mohammed al-Hammadi criticised Qatar's “incitement against the United Arab Emirates” in an article on Abu Dhabi daily, Al-Ittihad.

“Qatar will be held responsible for endangering the lives of the Emirati Red Crescent team due to its direct incitement against them,” he wrote.

Qatar is a staunch supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, viewed by most conservative monarchies of the Gulf as a threat to their grip on power because of its grass-roots political advocacy and calls for Islamic governance.

Saudi Arabia has designated the Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist” organisation, and the UAE has cracked down on Islamist activists on its soil.

Relations between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours have been strained since Doha backed Egypt's former Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, ousted by the military last year in a move swiftly applauded by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

On June 27, the United Arab Emirates arrested two Qatari citizens described as “spies” by Emirati media. - AFP

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