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Israeli minister proposes offshore port for Gaza

Yisrael Katz says government doesn’t object to artificial island with seaport, so long as Israel’s security needs met, but unclear who would foot bill

Illustrative photo of Palestinian fishermen paddling their small boat a few hundred meters off the beach of Gaza City while casting their nets in search of small fish on August 10, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Roberto Schmidt)
Illustrative photo of Palestinian fishermen paddling their small boat a few hundred meters off the beach of Gaza City while casting their nets in search of small fish on August 10, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Roberto Schmidt)

Israel’s transportation minister said that he is pushing for the construction of an “artificial island” off the coast of Hamas-ruled Gaza to alleviate hardship in the blockaded coastal strip.

Yisrael Katz said Monday his plan calls for an eight square kilometer (three square mile) island linked to Gaza by a five kilometer (three-mile) bridge. He said the island, estimated to cost $5 billion, would include a port and perhaps a future airport. Israel would supervise security checks but it would otherwise be run by Palestinians and the international community.

With Israel and Egypt maintaining a naval blockade of Gaza to prevent the Strip’s Hamas terrorist rulers importing weapons, the Palestinians have long been pleading for a port to connect them to the rest of the world.

Katz said Israel has no objection as long as its security needs are met.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz arrives to cast his vote in the Likud primaries in Tel Aviv, December 29, 2015. (Flash90)
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz arrives to cast his vote in the Likud primaries in Tel Aviv, December 29, 2015. (Flash90)

Katz expressed optimism that Israel’s security chiefs would back the plan, and that it would be put to a cabinet vote, Israel Radio reported. Afterwards, Israel would seek international funding for the project.

The transportation minister, who also serves as Israel’s intelligence minister, said Saudi Arabia or China might foot the bill, or an unnamed Israeli, the Washington Post reported.

Katz said the Palestinian Authority signaled support for the idea, but PA officials refused to comment. Israel hasn’t discussed the project with Hamas or the PA, the Washington Post reported.

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