Israel reportedly agrees to set up seaport for Gaza in Cyprus
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Israel reportedly agrees to set up seaport for Gaza in Cyprus

Hadashot news says defense minister proposed plan to Cypriot president; conditioned it on release of Israeli captives, soldiers’ bodies held by Hamas

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Palestinian children fill jerrycans with drinking water from public taps in the southern Gaza Strip, June 11, 2017. (AFP/SAID KHATIB)
Palestinian children fill jerrycans with drinking water from public taps in the southern Gaza Strip, June 11, 2017. (AFP/SAID KHATIB)

Israel has reportedly agreed to set up a floating dock in Cyprus to receive goods bound for the Gaza Strip as a way to ease the rehabilitation of the ailing Palestinian enclave, conditioning the plan on the return of two Israeli civilians and the bodies of two IDF soldiers held by the Hamas terror group.

Israel intends to put together a working plan in the coming months and then pitch it directly to the public in Gaza, bypassing the Hamas rulers of the coastal territory, Hadashot TV news reported Monday.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman proposed the idea to Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades in Cyprus over the weekend, the report said.

The plan is to set up a project team within two weeks, with the goal of putting together a working scheme within three months.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman leads a faction meeting of his Yisrael Beytenu party in the Knesset, June 18, 2018. (Miriam Alster/ Flash90)

The dock would include a system enabling Israeli monitoring to prevent Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, from using the opportunity to smuggle weapons and materials for terror attacks into Gaza. Hamas has long made access to a sea port a key strategic goal.

“As soon as all the details are closed and ‘locked and loaded,’ we will appeal directly to the public in Gaza, going over the heads of Hamas,” a senior defense source told the television station. “We will clearly and openly put the benefits package on the table [and say], ‘This is possible, this is the price. Take it or leave it.'”

The report also said that Israel is willing to assist the US in its efforts to funnel major funding into Gaza for the purpose of rehabilitating its infrastructure and propping up its economy.

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.

Hadashot assessed that the developments would put further pressure on Hamas if it blocks the proposal, as it would then need to explain to the public in Gaza and Arab states why it is preventing the rehabilitation of the Strip.

IDF soldiers Oron Shaul (left) and Hadar Goldin (right) (Flash90)

Liberman met with his Greek and Cypriot counterparts in Cyprus on Friday to discuss defense and counterterrorism coordination between the three nations.

The reported Israel proposal came on the heels of a visit to the region by senior White House adviser Jared Kushner and US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace envoy, Jason Greenblatt. During their visit, they spoke with state leaders about an upcoming administration peace plan and reportedly made efforts to raise some $500 million toward Gaza’s rehabilitation, as a way of smoothing the way for the peace plan.

The US officials held talks in Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt, about the peace plan, details of which have not been released, but did not hold meetings with the Palestinian leadership.

However, in an interview with a Palestinian newspaper, Kushner appealed directly to the Palestinian public urging them to not “let your leadership reject a plan they haven’t even seen.”

Hamas seized control in 2007 of Gaza from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, which is dominated by the rival Fatah party. Several attempts at reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah have failed.

Avraham Avera Mengistu, who is being held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (Facebook)

Gaza is buckling under severe problems with its infrastructure that have left limited access to drinking water and severe shortages of electric power, as well as an economic slump. Israel and Egypt are imposing a sea blockade on the territory to prevent arms smuggling by Gaza terror group. Goods arrive at Israeli ports, where they are screened for weapons or military-capable material, and then transferred to Gaza on hundreds of trucks a day.

Israel says Hamas has diverted hundreds of millions of dollars in international financial aid and materials toward building its military forces and infrastructure.

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