Palestinian leader quietly in Qatar for World Cup opening

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Doha on Saturday to attend the World Cup opening ceremony, Qatar’s news agency reported, in a visit unannounced by the Palestinians.

Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency, with a highlighted section dedicated to covering the daily activities of Abbas, did not report his trip to Qatar.

This apparently followed an outcry at home over leaked documents purportedly showing the embattled leader traveling to Qatar with a large entourage of close family members and aids.

The documents, which appeared earlier this month but were not independently authenticated, also showed hotel bills of hundreds of thousands of dollars, raising anger online as the Palestinian economy stagnates. Abbas’ office declined comment on the documents and did not respond when asked about his travel plans.

The papers first appeared on social media pages associated with Hamas, the militant group that rules the Gaza Strip since ousting pro-Abbas forces in 2007.

Based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Authority has increasingly become unpopular over accusations of corruption, silencing of critics, and mismanagement that exasperated its financial crisis. Hamas, which runs Gaza under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade and repeated conflicts with Israel, is not faring any better.

The 2022 World cup in Qatar kicks off Sunday.

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