Israel launched a new plan about Gaza and the future of the fenced-in Palestinian enclave.
Israel's intelligence and transport minister has long pushed the idea of an artificial island off the coast of the Gaza Strip, with plans for a port, cargo terminal and even an airport to boost the territory's economy and connect it to the world.
But now the minister, Israel Katz, has released a slick, high-production video setting out his proposal in more detail, complete with a dramatic, English-speaking narration, colorful graphics and stirring music.
"The artificial island initiative is aimed at providing an answer to a reality that is bad for the Palestinians and not good for Israel," says the narrator, acknowledging that the aim is in part to change the view that Israel is to blame for the deteriorating circumstances of Gaza's two million people.
Hamas has controlled Gaza for the past decade, during which time Israel and neighboring Egypt have maintained a tight blockade, restricting the flow of goods and people in and out, in part to pressure Hamas.
Israel limits Gaza's access to the sea and controls its airspace.
Katz's plan calls for a $5 billion investment over five years.
It envisages an international consortium building the 1,300-acre island (525 hectares) some three miles offshore, connecting it to the mainland via a causeway, which would have a bridge in the middle that could be raised, cutting off access.
Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel since it seized control of Gaza from Palestinian movement Fatah, has long called for a sea port and wants the airport in Gaza, destroyed by Israel in 2001, rebuilt.
It has not commented directly on Katz's island plan, but Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for the group, said: "Building a sea port for Gaza is a right of its people to alleviate their suffering and end the blockade."
Katz showed his video to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet this month, where it met with widespread approval, according to Katz's spokesman.
But Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has responsibility for Gaza policy, remains unconvinced and has not endorsed the proposal. He has said Gaza does not deserve any development project as long as Hamas runs the territory.
Katz's hope is that if the Israeli government does get fully behind it, it can then be presented to international partners as a potential, if ambitious, project to finance.
New Hamas charter got positive European replies: Leader
Palestinian resistance group Hamas has received "positive" responses from European countries on its new charter, a senior group leader said Sunday.“Many European capitals have dealt positively with our new political document," Osama Hamdan, head of international relations in Hamas, said in an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency."We got positive responses from Sweden and Norway along with positive signs from Britain in addition to supportive positions from Russia and China,” he said.In May, Hamas unveiled a revised charter that accepts a Palestinian state along the borders set before Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.The U.S., however, said its position on Hamas remains unchanged despite the group's new charter.While Washington blacklisted Hamas in 1997, many countries consider the group a legitimate political actor."The U.S. administration always stands beside Israel, since they maintained the same position [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu adopted towards the document," Hamdan said.The Hamas leader said that his group is a resistance group seeking to liberate Palestinian lands occupied by Israel."We represent a lucid movement that struggles to restore usurped rights of its people, who have been living under occupation for decades," he said.- Egypt relationsIn recent years, relations between Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and Egypt have strained amid Egyptian accusations for the group of interfering in its internal affairs.However, relations have recently improved with the two sides reaching understandings regarding maintaining border security."Our understandings with Egypt did not come all of sudden, but came as a result of three years of mutual trust," Hamdan said."We have managed to prove for our brothers in Egypt that all charges against Hamas of interfering in Egypt’s internal affairs were totally fake,” he added.Last month, Hamas began building a buffer zone along border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, which has been hit by a militant insurgency since 2013.“We are very keen on building robust and healthy relations with brothers [in Egypt] with a view to alleviating the suffering of people in Gaza,” Hamdan said.Home to nearly two million Palestinians, the Gaza Strip has been reeling under a crippling blockade by Israel since 2007.In recent days, Egyptian authorities allowed trucks loaded with industrial fuel to enter Gaza for re-operating the enclave’s only functioning power plant after a two-month hiatus.The move was reportedly part of understandings reached between Hamas, Egypt and exiled Fatah leader Mohamed Dahlan, which Hamas considers as its foe.Asked about Hamas's relations with Dahlan, who is currently based in the United Arab Emirates, Hamdan said “Hamas cannot be a bridge for the return of people who think they can surrender the rights of Palestinian people.”“But, we are ready to be bridges for anyone who holds the project of the resistance and the full liberation of Palestine,” he added.- National reconciliationHamdan said national reconciliation is a main goal for Hamas.“Despite the steps taken by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas against Gaza, we have repeatedly said that internal reconciliation is a principal issue for us,” he said.“We in Hamas opened all doors for the [Ramallah-based] unity government to practice its tasks freely in the Gaza Strip,” he added.Hamas and rival Fatah group, which dominates the Palestinian Authority (PA), have been at odds since the former routed PA forces from Gaza after infighting.In April of 2014, the two groups signed a long-awaited reconciliation agreement that called for the formation of a Palestinian unity government tasked with overseeing Palestinian legislative and presidential polls.Although the unity government was unveiled two months later, it never took on a governing role in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, while the relationship between Hamas and Fatah remains beset by a host of outstanding differences.In April, Abbas vowed to take “unprecedented steps” to pressure Hamas into relinquishing control of the Gaza Strip.And in June, Israel began reducing the electricity supply to Gaza -- a move it says came at the request of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.“Abbas seeks by these sanctions to incite against the Gaza-based resistance, forgetting that these steps would have consequences on the economic, social, political aspects inside Gaza," Hamdan said.- Gulf crisisMeanwhile, the Hamas leader called for dialogue to resolve an ongoing crisis between a number of Arab countries and Qatar.“We feel pain for what is going on in the Gulf countries as it took place between brothers and the Gulf house was seen solid until this crisis,” Hamdan said."We call for solving this problem through dialogue which prioritizes the interests of the whole region not the interest of Israel.”On June 5, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain cut diplomatic relations with Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism.Saudi Arabia also sealed its land border with Qatar, geographically isolating the tiny Gulf nation.Qatar, for its part, denied the accusations, saying the move to isolate it diplomatically was "unjustified" and in breach of international law.
EU extends police missions in Palestine
The European Union on Tuesday extended its police missions in Palestine for 12 months.The EU co-ordinating office for Palestinian police support in the West Bank and its border assistance mission for the Rafah crossing point in Gaza will operate until 30 June 2018, the EU Council said in a statement.These missions are part of the EU efforts "in support of Palestinian state building in the context of working towards a comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on a two-state solution," the EU Council added.The EU has allocated over €14 million ($16 million) for its missions between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2018.Gaza’s Rafah border gate is under control of the Egyptian authorities since the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi in a 2013 military coup. Egypt has kept the border with Gaza mostly sealed.Europe has described the crossing point as a “vital issue” for the freedom of movement of the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza.
Israel detains female Palestinian MP in West Bank raid
Israeli forces detained a female Palestinian lawmaker in the occupied West Bank on Sunday.Khalida Jarrar, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was arrested from her home in Ramallah city, according to her daughter.“At least 10 Israeli soldiers raided the house at dawn, arrested my mother and took her to an unknown location,” her daughter Yafa said.The Israeli army said Jarrar was detained on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activities and violent public disturbances.“Her arrest had nothing to do with her membership in the Palestinian Legislative Council,” the military said in a statement.The PFLP, for its part, said Jarrar's detention "reflects the confusion of the Israeli occupation".“The arrest follows a campaign of incitement launched by the Israeli government against PFLP and the resistance factions," it said in a statement.Jarrar was released by Israel in mid-2016 after spending 15 months in prison on charges of committing a number of "security offenses", including membership in the banned PFLP, which Israel considers a "terrorist" organization.According to Palestinian figures, Israel is currently holding more than 6,500 Palestinians -- including scores of women and children -- at 24 detention centers across the country.
Israel, Egypt, UAE plan to appoint Dahlan as Palestine’s leader
Allegations claiming that Israel, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have agreed to change the administration in Palestine have emerged.Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said on Thursday that Israel, Egypt and the UAE plan on appointing Mohammed Dahlan as Gaza’s leader. Dahlan is an exiled Fatah official.The plan also aims to replace the Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas with Dahlan. Abbas and Dahlan have a long-standing feud.Zvi Barel, who penned the piece in Haaretz, said it was “too early to assess whether this plan will be fully implemented.” Hamas is likely to reject Dahlan.Barel believes if the plan is successful, Egypt would open the Rafah border crossing and the UAE could establish a power station on the Egyptian side of the border.One of the objectives of bringing Dahlan into power is to neutralize the role of Qatar and Turkey in Gaza. Israel hopes to put a leader at the head of Palestine that it can control, as it believes Dahlan would be a partner to Israel.Dahlan has close links to Egypt and Abu Dhabi, and has resided in the UAE since his exile in 2012. He is disliked among Palestinians.Barel says if the plan holds up, the Israeli-Egyptian dream of a “state of Gaza” under Israel’s influence would come into fruition.Hamas official wishes Erdoğan and Turkey a joyful EidIsraeli PM met Egypt's Sisi in secret in Cairo: ReportHamas leader: Arab differences are internal affairs