Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) has denied reports of negotiations or dialogue between Israel and Turkey on the construction of a seaport in the Gaza Strip.
Furthermore, Major General Yoav Mordechai reportedly told Saudi media, should the circumstances be right in the future to discuss understandings or agreements on the issue, Israel would only hold such negotiations with the Palestinian Authority or the Hamas leaders in Gaza.
Mordechai’s comments, reported Friday by Ynet, contradict recent statements by Hamas officials, who claimed that the issue of a seaport is on the agenda in negotiations currently underway between Israel and Turkey, and that an agreement is not far off.
A Hamas official said Thursday that the terror group was hopeful the emerging deal to restore ties between Jerusalem and Ankara would result in the construction of the port for the impoverished Strip.
Turkey has said it will not normalize ties with Israel, ruptured in 2010, without Gaza’s blockade being lifted or at least eased. Hamas hopes a seaport might be built if Israel does lift its restrictions. Israel maintains the blockade to prevent Hamas, which seeks to destroy it, from importing weapons. Egypt is also blockading its side of Gaza.
If the blockade is not lifted, “Gaza will explode,” said the official, Mushir al-Masri.
On February 19, Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s leader in Gaza, said in a sermon at Muslim prayers in the Shati refugee camp where he lives that there had been “a lot of progress on the issue of the port of Gaza” in the recent talks between Israel and Turkey. He did not elaborate.
The Hebrew-language Haaretz daily reported on Wednesday that some senior IDF officials support the idea of easing the pressure on Hamas, amid a worsening economic situation in Gaza that could lead to new conflict, by giving Gaza access of some kind to a seaport. It said a range of possible port arrangements — including an artificial offshore island to hold a port — are being discussed at senior military and political levels, in part because of the worsening economic situation in Gaza and consequent Israeli concern over renewed conflict. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon flatly oppose all such ideas, however, the newspaper report said.