Cyprus mulling Israeli request for port to send goods to Gaza
Cypriot spokeswoman says no agreement yet; Israel’s defense minister cautions plan depends on return of Israelis and IDF solders’ remains held in Palestinian enclave
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus said Tuesday it is examining an Israeli request to build a port facility on the island for the delivery of goods to Palestinians of the blockaded Gaza Strip.
“There is no agreement on this issue” but “there is a relevant request that is under consideration,” deputy government spokeswoman Klelia Vassiliou told reporters.
According to Hadashot TV news, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman made the proposal for the Palestinian territory during a visit last week to the eastern Mediterranean island.
Under the plan, a special pier would be constructed for cargo ships carrying goods bound for Gaza, around 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Cyprus.
Cargo ships would deliver goods to the dock, which would include an Israeli monitoring system to prevent the smuggling of weapons and materials for terror attacks into Gaza, according to a report from the Hadashot TV news. Goods would then be shipped to Gaza on smaller vessels.
Liberman’s office commented on the proposal on Tuesday.
“The defense minister and security establishment, along with elements in the international community, are leading many initiatives aimed at changing the reality in the Gaza Strip,” a spokesman for his office told AFP.
“Any idea presented to improve the humanitarian situation would be conditioned on solving the issue of the captives [Israelis held in Gaza] and MIAs,” or soldiers’s bodies held there by Hamas since 2014.
“Beyond that we can’t provide details.”
Two apparently mentally ill Israeli civilians — Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed — who entered Gaza of their own volition in 2014 and 2015, respectively, are currently being held Hamas, along with the remains of two IDF soldiers: Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.
Israel controls two land crossings into Gaza and Egypt controls a third.
The Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border is often closed, and it is not designed for the passage of cargo as most commercial and humanitarian goods enter Gaza through the Kerem Shalom post with Israel.
Goods that arrive by ship travel by truck from Israeli ports to the Strip.
The international community has heavily criticized the restrictions, including security curbs that Israel has imposed on Gaza since the Hamas terror group, which seeks to destroy Israel, seized control of the territory in 2007. Israel says its blockade, also applied by Egypt, is necessary to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons into the territory.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.