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Israel eyes building Cyprus port for ferrying goods to Gaza

Palestinians trying to breach Israel's naval blockade [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 June, 2018

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Israel reportedly intends to pitch the idea directly to Gazans after a working plan is put together within the next three months.

Cyprus is studying an Israeli request to build a floating dock to allow goods into the now-blockaded Gaza Strip.

"There is no agreement on this issue" but "there is a relevant request that is under consideration", deputy government spokeswoman Klelia Vassiliou told reporters.

Israel's Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman made the proposal during a visit last week to the nearby eastern Mediterranean island. Under the plan, a special pier would be constructed for cargo ships carrying goods bound for Gaza, around 250 miles from Cyprus.

The goods would be checked by a monitoring mechanism to ensure no arms are being smuggled into the Hamas-run Strip, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The cargo would then be sent to Gaza directly by ferry since the enclave lacks a port large enough for the docking of cargo ships.

Hadashot news agency said Israel intends to pitch the idea directly to Gazans after a working plan is put together within the next three months, bypassing the Islamist Hamas group. 

The Israeli news agency said the proposal would put further pressure on Hamas, as the group would need to explain to the public why it would block what it called the rehabilitation of Gaza. 

However, Lieberman's office on Tuesday also cautioned that "any idea presented to improve the humanitarian situation would be conditioned on solving the issue of the captives (two Israeli soldiers held in Gaza) and MIAs" since 2014. 

Israel controls two land crossings into Gaza and Egypt controls a third. 

The Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border is often closed, and it is not designed for the passage of cargo as most commercial and humanitarian goods enter Gaza through the Kerem Shalom post with Israel. 

Goods that arrive by ship travel by truck from Israeli ports to the Strip.

The international community has heavily criticised the restrictions, including security curbs that Israel has imposed on Gaza since Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007.

The United Nations has said Gaza, which is home to two million people, will be uninhabitable by 2020.

In March, Gazans launched the Great March of Return, in part to escape ever-worsening living conditions, along the Gaza-Israel separation fence. Israeli forces have frequently opened fire on unarmed Palestinians, killing at least 125 people since. No Israelis have been killed. 

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