Lacking a port not controlled by Israel, Gaza has no chance ...| MENAFN.COM

Friday, 01 July 2022 07:48 GMT

Lacking a port not controlled by Israel, Gaza has no chance of developing

(MENAFN- Jordan Times) Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman has proposed that Cyprus agree to establish a pier or build a floating dock, presumably, in Limassol Port to receive ships carrying cargo for Gaza. Israel would inspect cargoes, allegedly for weapons, before their transshipment on ferries to the Palestinian coastal strip. The ferries would drop anchor off Gaza's tiny fishing port and cargo would be collected by lighters for landing.

Gaza has no proper port, although the population of the strip is more than twice that of Cyprus, which has three cargo ports, two in the internationally recognised republic and one, Famagusta, occupied illegally by Turkey since 1974.

Lieberman resurrected this old idea during a meeting in Nicosia, attended by Cypriot and Greek counterparts. He conditioned any deal on the release of three Israeli civilians and the bodies to two Israeli soldiers by the de facto Hamas government in Gaza. Cyprus responded by saying the issue would be discussed and the views of all interested parties and stakeholders would be taken into account.

A Cypriot port pier providing imports into Gaza would, however, not mark an improvement in the situation. The arrangement would severely limit the quantity of goods that could be delivered to Gaza as ferries and lighters could not meet Gaza's needs. Furthermore, Israeli monitors would remain in charge.

Since Israel occupied the narrow coastal strip in 1967, maritime trade involving Gaza has taken place through Israeli ports. Both incoming and outgoing goods are closely monitored. All that enters and leaves Gaza is determined by Israel, which decides not only what items are allowed, but also in what quantities. Goods are trucked to and from the Kerem Shalom crossing located in the south near the Egyptian border.

Following the establishment of the Palestinian Authority under the 1993 Oslo Accord, Gaza flourished briefly. The authority based itself in Gaza, built a home for the legislative council which was elected in 1996, and sited ministries in Gaza. Large volumes of goods and construction materials entered the strip through Israel. The Authority sought to transform dusty, poor Gaza into a showcase, a major exporter of agricultural produce and flowers and a tourist destination. Hotels were built along the Gaza coast, multistorey apartment blocks rose in Gaza city, and restaurants and cafes opened along its main thoroughfare, Omar Al Mukhtar Street.

The Oslo Accord also provided for the establishment of a port. In 1994, $50 million was pledged for the project by Holland and France and the authority signed a contract for construction with the Dutch-French European Gaza Development Group. Israel blocked construction.

In 1999, the memorandum issued at a high-level Sharm Al Sheikh meeting stated that work on the port should begin October 1st of that year. In 2000, a new contract was signed with the French-Dutch group and building began on phase one. Israel refused to permit the entry of construction materials. The port project stalled.

On September 18th, 2000, ten days before the second Palestinian uprising erupted in protest against Israel's refusal to abide by the terms of Oslo, Israeli tanks attacked the port site. It was bombed the next month along with Gaza's airport, opened in November 1998 and formally inaugurated by US President Bill Clinton that December.

In 2006 after Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary election, Israel adopted a policy of reducing essential supplies to Gaza. At that time, then prime minister Ehud Olmert's senior adviser, Dov Weisglass said that Israel aimed "to put Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger". The object of the "diet" was to compel Gazans to turn against Hamas. This did not happen.

In early 2008, six months after Hamas seized control of Gaza, the Israeli health ministry drew up a document, "Food Consumption in the Gaza Strip — the Red Lines", which stated "in order to maintain the basic fabric of life" in Gaza, Israel would have to permit the daily entry of only 106 lorries with food and other essential goods rather than the usual 400. Israeli nutritionists figured Gazans needed 2,279 calories a day to survive, slightly fewer than most Israelis.

Israel also drew up restrictive lists of goods, medicines and other supplies for transfer to Gaza.

Although Israel had eased restrictions in 2010, the Israeli human rights organisation Gisha petitioned the supreme court to compel the government to release the document in 2012, attracting international condemnation and outrage.

In response to the limitation of essential supplies, more than 1,500 tunnels were dug between the Gazan and Egyptian sectors of the divided town of Rafah on the Gaza-Egypt border. The tunnels introduced the free flow of goods into Gaza: food, medical supplies, fuel, clothing, construction and raw materials. People and goods also crossed into Egypt through the tunnels. "Banksy", the British graffiti artist, was one of the famous figures smuggled in and out of Gaza through the tunnels. During his stay, he made a film about the situation in the strip. The tunnels gave Gazans a tiny margin of independence and freedom.

The tunnels created jobs and millionaires, filled the shelves of shops with consumer goods and gave a fillip to Gaza's economy, until Israel and Egypt systematically shut down the tunnels between 2009-2015. The final blows to the tunnels were delivered after Israel's devastating summer offensive in 2014.

Following this operation, Israel prohibited the entry into Gaza of cement, aggregate and other building materials unless ordered by UN agencies involved in reconstruction. This prevented Palestinians from reconstructing homes flattened during the war.

Lacking a port not controlled by Israel, Gaza has no chance of developing and providing for its ever growing population.


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