GAZA (Reuters) – A Qatari envoy overseeing the Gulf state’s humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip said on Monday that he had proposed building an airport in the blockaded Palestinian enclave but had received no response from Israel.
In coordination of Israel and the United Nations, Qatar has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to various Gaza projects that the partners say are designed to stave off Palestinian poverty and prevent escalations in violence.
“They (Israel) said it would be discussed and they procrastinated … We will renew our request,” Qatari Ambassador Al-Emadi told the Gaza-based news agency SAWA.
“The Israeli side had security concerns and we told them we can resolve them by having the planes fly to Doha and return to Gaza from there and under Qatari security supervision,”
Israel had not responded, Al-Emadi said, but had proposed that such an airport be built on its side of the border – an idea the diplomat said had been rejected by Qatar.
Cogat, the Israeli government agency that has been coordinating with Qatar on the Gaza aid efforts, declined comment on Al-Emadi’s remarks. Gaza is under the control of Hamas Islamists, who have fought three wars against Israel.
In 1998, the Palestinians got their first international airport as a result of the historic peace treaty with Israel, but Israel destroyed its radar antenna and runway a few months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
The Israeli government deemed it a security threat at the height of the second Palestinian uprising known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada.
Israel withdrew its settlers and soldiers from Gaza a few years later, in 2005, but maintains tight control of Gaza’s land, air and sea borders. Egypt controls access from the south.
Israel says the restrictions are to stop weapons entering the Strip and to isolate Hamas, which has controlled Gaza’s two million population since 2007.
Writing by Nidal Almughrabi; editing by Dan Williams, Larry King.