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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Les autorités à Gaza aménagent le port pour le départ de voyages internationaux

by anonymous with Agence France Presse

Gaza Authorities Fit Out Port for Voyages Abroad

Translated Friday 30 January 2015, by Gene Zbikowski

On Jan. 25, a ministerial committee formed by Gaza’s Hamas government announced it will fit out the port of Gaza for international voyages, beginning in two months, leaving the Palestinian enclave, which is blockaded by Israel.

Alaa al-Batta, the spokesperson for the committee to lift the blockade, which was formed under the Hamas government, which has since theoretically ceded power to a government of union, indicated during a press conference in the port of Gaza that preparations were under way “for a ship to transport patients and students for an initial maritime voyage leaving the port of Gaza.”

At present, the long strip of land hemmed in by Israel, Egypt, and the Mediterranean Sea has no port terminal. The port of Gaza has only been used for fishing. The opening of a port from which people could arrive and depart is one of the main Palestinian demands. It was the stumbling block during the last negotiations with the Israelis on the consolidation of the cease-fire in Gaza, a city ravaged last summer by another Israeli offensive, the third in six years.

“We’re taking the necessary measures to make maritime transport possible and to prepare for the building of a port linking the Gaza strip to the outside world,” Mr. Batta stated, adding that “several countries have given their green light,” without, however, spelling out which countries.

Since 2006, the Gaza strip has been subject to a strict Israeli blockade which includes the sea. The Israeli navy fires on boats that sail over six nautical miles (11 km) away from the coast. As for the international flotillas that have attempted to approach the Gaza strip to unload aid and break the blockade, all have been repulsed by the Israeli navy.

To the south, Egypt has the only opening, from Gaza onto the world, that Israel does not control. Egypt is building a buffer zone along the border, which it opens only for extremely short and intermittent periods.

For the launching of its project, the committee has posted signs at the port proclaiming: “Port Authority. Gaza International Port Terminal”, “Departure Room” and “Arrival Room.”

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