Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani is set to arrive in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday in the first visit by a head of state since the Islamist Hamas movement took over in 2007.
The ruler of the Gulf emirate was to enter the Palestinian territory at 11:00 am (0900 GMT) via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, accompanied by his wife, Sheikha Moza and Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani, in a visit Hamas hailed as "very important."
It comes during a spike in tension between Israel and Hamas, whose armed wing on Monday threatened revenge for Israeli air strikes that killed one of its men and at least one other militant.
During his brief visit, the emir will inaugurate a $254-million Qatari investment project to rebuild the impoverished and overcrowded Gaza Strip, which sustained major damage during a huge 22-day Israeli military operation in December 2008 and January 2009.
"This visit has great political significance," said Hamas government spokesman Taher al-Nunu.
"He is the first Arab leader to break the political siege," Nunu said, referring to a widespread international boycott of Gaza's Hamas rulers since they forcibly took over the enclave in 2007, ousting forces loyal to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
"We have finished all the security and logistical arrangements for this historic and important visit," he told AFP.
VIP visitors to Gaza over the past five years, such as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and European Union foreign ministers, have studiously avoided Hamas officials. But the emir will be met on arrival by prime minister Ismail Haniya and several cabinet ministers.
That fact was not lost on Israel.
"We find it weird that the emir doesn't support all of the Palestinians but sides with Hamas over the Palestinian Authority (in the West Bank) which he has never visited," foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP on Monday.
"The emir has chosen his camp and it is not good."
Israeli launched two air strikes on Monday around the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun where militants were firing mortar rounds at an Israeli tank and military vehicles which had crossed into Gaza territory, witnesses and security sources said.
The first critically wounded four militants of the Hamas military wing Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, one of whom later died, medics and the militant group said.
"The enemy will not be able to tie our hands and his crime will not go unanswered," it said in a statement.
A second air strike killed a militant from the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), critically wounding another man.
Late on Monday, Palestinian medical services and witnesses said a third air strike at Beit Hanun critically wounded a man, Khalil al-Kafarna, 21, who later died of his injuries.
It was not immediately known if he was a militant.
Ahead of the Emir's Gaza visit, teams of people hung thousands of Qatari and Palestinian flags along streets across the Gaza Strip, with huge pictures of the emir.
A statement from Haniya called on Gazans to "express your welcome to the emir of Qatar by coming onto the streets."
Huge billboards along the main Salahedine highway, which runs the length of the strip, carried posters reading: "Thank you, Qatar, you kept your promise" and other posters simply reading: "Welcome."
Officials in Gaza said that the emir would land at El-Arish airport in northern Sinai and would be escorted by Egyptian security officials to the Rafah crossing.
After being welcomed by Haniya he will travel to the southern city of Khan Yunis to lay the foundation stone for the construction of 1,000 homes for poor families. The project is being named in his honour.
He and Haniya will make statements there, and the emir is expected to return to Egypt at 4:00 pm (1600 GMT).