Tuesday, September 16, 2008
PA Aims for Gaza Seaport
Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
Pro-Arab activists are assisting the Hamas authority to establish a Cyprus-Gaza passenger line in an attempt to permanently break Israeli sovereignty over the Gaza coast.
The "Free Gaza" movement activists reached the coast in two fishing boats last month after the Foreign Ministry decided not to carry out threats to have the Israel Navy arrest them or turn them back. Ministry officials explained they did not want to give the movement an opportunity to exploit Israeli opposition.
Pro-Arab activists want to prove that the landing was not a one-time publicity stunt and that the breaking of Israeli sovereignty was not just symbolic.
Israel has retained control over air and sea routes in the Gaza area following Israel's uprooting of civilians and the military from the region three years ago. and has said it will continue to do so until the Palestinian Authority (PA) can demonstrate it is able to curtail terror. Last year, Hamas overthrew the Fatah-led PA in Gaza.
Israeli intelligence officials have said that Hamas has used sea routes to smuggle explosives and weapons into Gaza and that surrendering sovereignty would given them free reign to bring in advanced weapons.
Israeli intelligence officials have said that Hamas has used sea routes to smuggle explosives and weapons into Gaza.
After the landing of the two boats last month, Hamas awarded a Gaza passport and honorary citizenship to several activists who could not leave the area because they lacked visas and other security clearance to enter Israel and Egypt through the borders with Gaza. One of those remaining is Lauren Booth, sister-in-law of Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair.
Seven others boarded the boats on a return trip to Cyprus without interference by the Israeli navy.
Kin Okeiv, an activist in the Popular Committee against the Gaza Siege, said that a new Aloha Palestine Aloha passenger ship company is in the final stages of being established to transfer "patients, students and stranded families" out of the Gaza area.
Palestinian Authority Arabs regularly travel to and from Gaza through the Sufa Crossing each week for medical treatment in pre-1967 Israel without a problem once they have received the proper clearance from the government.
Activists said they plan to send another ship to Gaza from Cyprus next week, depending on weather conditions, and then more ships on a regular basis. In addition, a boat from Yemen is set to sail with a crew of Arabs from around the world.
The Foreign Ministry has not announced whether it will try to stop the ships.