According to the Al Qassam website, Hamas MP Jamal Al-Khudari has said that the visit to Gaza by Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan would be an opportunity to discuss with the Turks the project of upgrading the Gaza harbor. The article’s translation was provided by MEMRI.
Al-Khudari told Quds Press last week that Arab and Islamic parties had promised to upgrade the Gaza harbor, to enable it to work as an important import-export port for the coastal strip.
The 48,000 square meter Gaza harbor is 970 meters in depth and is currently only used by fishermen who are kept within six nautical miles off the coast by the Israel.
Following the June, 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza, both Egypt and Israel decided to impose a land, air, and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip, on the grounds that Fatah had fled and was no longer providing security on the Arab side. Egypt was also concerned that a Hamas spillover would ignite unrest in its own cities.
The blockade has been kept more and less rigidly, depending on the severity of rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza. In May, 2010, the Israeli Navy seized a convoy of six ships known as the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla,” organized by the Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İHH). The convoy’s aim was to break through the blockade. Israeli naval commandos boarded the ships in international waters. On the Turkish MV Mavi Marmara, the main ship of the convoy, passengers attacked and captured three soldiers. After failing to disperse the attackers, soldiers resorted to live fire. Nine passengers were killed and dozens wounded. Nine soldiers were also injured, two of them seriously.
Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent apology for the unfortunate event, its remnants are still hovering in the air between Turkey and Israel. Both countries, for a variety of reasons, are eager to restore normalcy: the Turks because Israeli tourism in the past injected a great deal of cash into their economy; the Israelis because they desire a safe haven for mid-way landing should they decide to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.
But if Hamas is able to drag Turkey into making good on its promise, and becoming a partner in the project, it would pose a difficult challenge to Israel. Being able to control the traffic of goods into Gaza has enabled Israel to manage a rather successful policy of carrots and sticks with Hamas. Without recognizing the Hamas government officially, Israel has been able to open its border crossings with Gaza for incoming goods when Hamas controlled its urge to shoot rockets into Israeli civilian centers, and close the same crossings when the terrorist organization could no longer curb its murderous urges.
This is precisely why Hamas MP Khudari, who is the head of the committee against the siege, emphasized that his committee wants Turkey to remain a full partner in the operation of Gaza harbor as a commercial port.
He stressed his plan that Turkey would supervise the harbor, that and all import and export traffic would be handled via a Turkish port, which would mean an end to the sea blockade on the Strip. Goods for Gaza will no longer land in Ashdod, Israel, first and then be shipped a few miles by truck into Gaza. They would instead be processed someplace in southern Turkey, and then ship directly to Gaza harbor.
Khudari said that his committee is hoping that such a proposal would end Israel’s excuses for refusing to let goods in and out of Gaza through its harbor over security fears.
Of course, if you can’t count on the Turks telling you there’s nothing illegal in those shioments, who can you count on?
MP Khudari said that the project would go into effect as soon as it was approved, adding that it would be tabled with Erdogan on his visit to Gaza.
Erdogan announced his intention to visit Gaza in May after a visit to the USA in mid May.