Hamas Warns That Without a Seaport in Gaza 'There'll Be an Explosion'

Israeli officials have once again begun discussing possibility of a seaport in Gaza; port construction serves Israeli interest to prop up Hamas' regime, Fatah member says.

Palestinian fishermen and women sail a boat at the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in Gaza City, Feb. 9, 2016.
AP

If Israel and Hamas don't reach an understanding over the construction of a seaport in the Gaza Strip "there will be an explosion," a senior member of the militant Palestinian group said on Wednesday. 

According to Mushir al-Masri, the port idea "has been coming up regularly the talks between the Turks and Israel being a basic Palestinian right. Either they open an entryway to the Strip or there'll be an explosion." 

A Fatah member from Gaza told Haaretz that he doesn't believe construction of the port will start in the near future, but claimed that the port was an Israeli interest, since it wants Hamas to continue controlling the Strip and forestall a reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. 

"Anyone who follows Israel's moves knows full well that it is propping up the Palestinian Authority as well as Hamas' regime so there won't be a direct link between the Strip and the West Bank," the Fatah member, who wished to remain unnamed, said. "This divide serves Israel's interests, since in the case of unity, reconciliation and a unified regime by the Authority – there won't be any justification for the siege on Gaza and for the closure of the Rafah Crossing." 

On Tuesday, Haaretz reported that Israeli political and military officials over the past few weeks have once again begun discussing an Israeli position on the possibility of a seaport in Gaza. Renewed discussion of the issue, which was raised for a short time after the war against Hamas in the summer of 2014, is connected to the deteriorating economic conditions in the Gaza Strip, to the desire to seek long-term solutions that would help improve the situation and reduce the danger of a new outbreak of conflict with Hamas.

At least five proposals are on the table, including building a port in Egyptian territory in Sinai in the Al Arish area, construction of an artificial port opposite the Gaza shoreline, building it on the Gaza coast itself, and earmarking quays in Cyprus or Ashdod for Gaza-bound shipments.

Senior Israel Defense Forces officers are in favor in principle of a port for the Gaza Strip, especially if it comes with a Hamas pledge for a long-term cease-fire. Some ministers also support the idea. However, chances do not seem especially strong, mainly because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon are against it.

Hamas demanded a port before the last war in Gaza and more forcefully during the fighting. But Israel rejected it and Egypt also opposed it. No progress has been made on the matter since then, despite interest by foreign governments, including Qatar and some European countries.