ISRAEL – The minister of intelligence and transportation in Israel said the project will reconnect Gaza with the rest of the world.

Israeli minister of intelligence and transportation Yisrael Katz said the project will alleviate economic hardship in the blockaded coastal strip and reconnect it with the rest of the world.

The plans call for an three square mile artificial island, linked to Gaza by a three-mile bridge. Mr Katz said the island would include a seaport, with potential plans for a future airport, a hotel and smaller port for yachts.

Israel would supervise security checks, but the island would otherwise be run by Palestinians and the international community.

Mr Katz, a top deputy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Israel had no objection to easing the Gaza blockade as long as its security needs are met.

“I do not think it is right to lock up two million people without any connection to the world,” he said.

“Israel has no interest to make life harder for the population there. But because of security concerns we can’t build an airport or seaport in Gaza.”

Israel destroyed Gaza’s airport during the second Palestinian uprising. Gaza City has a small seaport that is not large enough to handle container ships and is mainly used by fishermen.

Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized power in 2007. Israel says the blockade is needed to prevent arms from reaching the Islamic militant group, which has fought three wars against Israel since the takeover.

However critics say the closure amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents. Repeated attempts to reconcile Hamas with the West Bank-based Fatah, the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, have failed.

Israel currently allows about 850 truckloads of goods into Gaza each day through a land crossing, but aid groups and U.N. officials say this is not enough to meet Gaza’s needs.

Katz said the island would be in international waters and could provide economic independence to Palestinians while allowing Israel to still vet security.

He said he hopes Israel’s security establishment will back the plan, and that it will soon come up for a vote in the Cabinet.

Husam Zumlot, an aide to Mr Abbas, criticised the idea as “dubious” and “politically motivated,” saying it would lead to “the final severing of Gaza from the rest of the occupied territory of the state of Palestine.”

This article first appeared on Unknown.

Author Thomas Blobaum

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