Steitieh said the plan to merge the companies, all involved in light manufacturing or services, into SII has shareholder support but will have to be approved by the board of directors and then by a shareholders’ assembly to be held in Doha on 30 June. They comprise nine companies based in Qatar and six in the UAE. All of them are privately held and their shareholders are Palestinian business people.

SII was formed following the 1995 Middle East & North Africa summit in Amman with a paid-in capital of $50 million. This was subsequently reduced to $20 million. SII relocated to Doha at the end of 2000 following the start of the Al-Aqsa intifada. It sold its stake in Aswar Media Production Company, which owns the Amwaj radio station, in December 2000.

SII has a 10 per cent stake in the Palestinian Company for Tourist Investmentwhich was formed to develop the Jasser Palace Hotel in Bethlehem. The hotel opened in March 2000 but is now closed. Steitieh says that since the start of 2002 the hotel has been occupied three times by the Israeli army and serious damage has been done to the facility. ‘They even shot the doors. It’s crazy,’ Steitieh says. ‘We plan to sue the Israeli government for the damage done to the hotel but as you know Israel seems to be above all international law.’

SII is also an investor in a commercial centre in Gaza. Work on the scheme is in suspension and plans for a commercial centre in Ramallah have also been shelved.

Steitieh, who moved to Doha at the start of 2001 from Ramallah, where SII has an office, said that the firm was profitable in 2001 despite the developments in Palestine, because of a successful investment policy. The merger with the 15 firms marks a further development in the new strategy which aims to develop investments in the Gulf region.

Abbas, aged 42, suffered a heart attack and died undergoing surgery at the Hamad Hospital in the Qatari capital. He had lived most of his life in Qatar and ran the local Al-Qafelah Trade & Contracting Company. His body was flown to Amman and the funeral was held in Ramallah.