Israel and Qatar have reached agreement on the establishment of a seaport in Cyprus that will serve the Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources said on Saturday.
The seaport will be under Israeli security supervision, the sources told Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar.
They claimed that Israel has demanded that its representatives be present at the seaport. Hamas, the sources said, has agreed to arrangements similar to those that were taken at the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.
Under the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access, the European Union Border Assistance Mission Rafah was responsible for monitoring the Rafah terminal. The agreement allowed Israel to dispute entrance by any person into the Gaza Strip.
Earlier this year, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman was reported to have reached an understanding with Cyprus to pursue the seaport plan.
A Cypriot government spokesman confirmed that Israel had asked his country to examine the possibility of establishing a waterway on the island for shipping goods to the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Authority has rejected the plan, saying Hamas was not authorized to reach any agreement on such matters with international parties. The PA has also warned that such a move would “consolidate” the split between the Gaza Strip and West Bank and pave the way for the establishment of a separate Palestinian state in the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave.
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The report about the proposed seaport, which has not been confirmed by Israel or Hamas, came as Qatar pursued its effort to achieve calm in the Gaza Strip. The Foreign Ministry said it had no comment on the report.
Qatari envoy to the Gaza Strip Mohammed el-Amadi arrived in the Gaza Strip last Thursday with suitcases stuffed with $15 million. The money was used the following day to pay tens of thousands of Palestinians.
Amadi told representatives of various Palestinian factions with whom he met on Friday that Qatar was discussing with Israel additional measures to improve the living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The measures, he said, include expanding the fishing zone, establishing an industrial zone and ending the power shortage.
The Qatari envoy said efforts were also under way to establish a seaport for the Gaza Strip. However, he did not say whether the proposed port would be established in Cyprus.
“Qatar will continue to support the Gaza Strip with all available means,” he pledged. Qatar, he added, will continue to pay salaries to civil servants and fund fuel for the power plant in the Gaza Strip for the next six months.
On Saturday, the Qatari envoy visited the power plant in Gaza, where he said his country was seeking to boost the economy there. He said at least 500,000 Palestinians would benefit, directly and indirectly, from the $15m. Qatari grant.
However, Amadi’s visit to the Gaza Strip was marred by an incident that took place during his tour of the sites of the weekly protests along the border with Israel on Friday, when scores of Palestinians pelted his convoy with stones. He and his aides were forced to flee the scene as Palestinians hurled stones and shoes at his convoy and chanted slogans denouncing him as a “collaborator” with Israel.
Hamas leaders are reported to have apologized to Amadi over the humiliating incident. Some Gaza sources claimed that Hamas security forces arrested a number of Palestinians on suspicion of attacking the Qatari representative’s convoy.
In Ramallah, meanwhile, the PA lashed out at Hamas for “selling Palestinian blood for $15m.”
The accusation came as Hamas began paying salaries to thousands of its employees and other Palestinians, after receiving funds from Qatar.
A statement published by official PA news agency Wafa said the Qatari grant was a “cheap price that Hamas received for the precious blood” of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
The statement accused Hamas of exploiting the plight of the Palestinians to “continue with its conspiracies, which is in concordance with the Zionist-American conspiracy aimed at separating the West Bank from the Gaza Strip.”
“Hamas leaders are prepared to align themselves with the devil in order to remain in power and undermine the Palestinian national project,” the PA statement said. It also lashed out at Hamas for refusing to achieve national reconciliation with President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction.
Hamas, the PA said, was seeking to establish an independent Palestinian state in Gaza that would be backed by the US, Israel and other international parties.
“President Abbas has repeatedly affirmed that this conspiracy will fail,” the statement added. “There will be no [Palestinian] state without the Gaza Strip, and no state in the Gaza Strip.”
Osama Qawassmeh, a spokesman for the PA’s ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank, accused Hamas of implementing an Israel scheme aimed at separating the West Bank from the Gaza Strip.
“One drop of Palestinian blood is more precious than all the billions of dollars in the world and all factional interests,” he said. “What is the implication of sending money to Hamas with the blessing and support of Israel and the US?”
The Fatah spokesman said that by accepting the Qatari funds, Hamas has agreed to the “principle of blood for money.” Hamas, he charged, has “exploited women and children and the suffering of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip for its narrow factional interests.”
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