Gaza, ALRAY - Ahmed Alkhatib, founder and director of Project Unified Assistance (PUA) responded to Mladenov statements by saying that“establishing and operating an airport in Gaza will help in the stabilization of the coastal enclave wich in turn will contribute to implementing tangible improvements in the lives of people in the Strip.”
Nickolay Mladenov, the special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said that residents of Gaza need jobs and hope more than a harbor and an airport.
Mladenov explained that people in Gaza had more pressing concerns and said “yes, it’s important to have an airport and a seaport in Gaza, but I don’t want us to be distracted by that from resolving the real issues that we face today,” adding that “people have lost hope and that life is gone and this is what makes Gaza more dangerous and more explosive.”
In response, Alkhatib stated that “the airport is actually a core component of the reconstruction process and will facilitate the transportation of needed quality medical and humanitarian devices, equipment, and supplies, and will provide many opportunities for employment, mobility, and hope amidst the desperation.” He elaborated: “it also goes without saying that an airport or a seaport are not the only actions needed to address the urgent needs of desperate civilians in Gaza, especially when it comes to water, electricity, unemployment, health care, education, and socio-political stability.” Nevertheless, and despite that, Alkhatib strongly believes that implementing PUA’s proposed U.N. operated and regulated airport in Gaza (based on relevant historic and contemporary precedents) in the al-Mawasi area of Khan Yunis (on the southern coast of the Strip) will address a significant component of the people’s suffering due to their inability to travel freely in and out of Gaza.
Alkhatib expressed hope that the U.N. will work with relevant parties, especially Israel, to explore ways for implementing the proposed humanitarian airport expediently and without the need for a comprehensive political resolution between Palestinians and Israelis.
Furthermore, he added that if the U.N. is interested in focusing on “real” issues that are more pressing, per Mladenov’s remarks, the Organization could develop and execute several measures aimed at expediting Gaza’s development process such as reforming or replacing the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) to scale up the rebuilding of destroyed homes and relieve Palestinian contractors and companies from excruciatingly demanding and taxing compliance requirements.
In recent months, the Middle East Institute published a policy paper by Alkhatib titled “Gaza Airport: Stabilizing the Strip with Humanitarian Aviation” in which he presented his organization’s proposal to establish a U.N. airport in the Strip. The paper states that doing so ‘will allow for the conducting of a humanitarian air operation and will remove barriers to people’s freedom of movement.’ The analysis explained that for decades, the U.N. has decisively and effectively participated in humanitarian air operations in countries and areas suffering from conflict and natural disasters. It is noteworthy that during the 1950s and 1960s, Gaza had an airport which was run by the U.N. The facility allowed for the transportation of cargo to and from the Strip, and facilitated the movement of local Palestinian passengers who took weekly flights to limited destinations such as Lebanon and Cyprus.