Project Unified Assistance (P.U.A.) is a US-based humanitarian nonprofit organization advocating for the establishment of a United Nations operated and regulated airport in the Gaza Strip.
*PUA is an independent nonprofit and is not affiliated with the United Nations, governments, or any other organization.
Washington Institute for Near East Policy - Pragmatic Options for Gaza
Ever since Hamas violently ejected the Palestinian Authority’s forces from Gaza in 2007, report after report has detailed the degradation of infrastructure and the inevitability of crises. The United Nations has warned that Gaza will become unlivable by 2020 — a warning repeated almost annually since 2012, louder and sterner since the 2014 war between Hamas and Israel. Though it might sound counterintuitive, big strategic plans for the reconstruction and development of Gaza are of little use for the time being. What is urgently needed are calculated, pragmatic, and tactical steps to shake up the status quo, without requiring unrealistic prerequisites prior to the initiation of such actions.
These calls of crisis have not gone unnoticed. Over the past decade there have been a number of proposals aimed at stabilizing and developing Gaza, from American, Israeli, and Palestinian think tanks, corporations, and politicians, to name but a sampling. None of these plans have been implemented.
Jewish Journal - How to save Gaza: A Palestinian American argues it’s time to bring in the UN and stop blaming Israel
Ten years ago, terrible events were unfolding in my native Gaza Strip. The Fatah-Hamas conflict was escalating, and all signs were pointing to an outcome that many in the George W. Bush administration did not want to believe was coming.
Despite millions of dollars in cash and arms from Arab countries and the United States, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas misplayed his hand and failed to stop Hamas’ violent military takeover of the coastal enclave, thereby raising tensions within Palestinian communities and with Israel.
By sheer coincidence, the very day the Islamist movement declared Gaza under its full control, June 14, 2007, my interview for political asylum status in the United States was underway.
While Israel continues to play a significant role in Gaza’s affairs, the grim anniversary of the Hamas takeover warrants focusing less on Israel than the role that Palestinian political organizations have played in worsening the misery for Gaza’s more than 2 million residents.
Jerusalem Post - For Now, the Gaza Island Proposal is a Pipe Dream
Since 2011, Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz has been championing an audacious idea: the creation of an artificial island off the Gaza Strip’s coast for strategic infrastructure such as a commercial seaport, a water desalination facility, a power plant, a future option for an airport, and other commercial structures.
There are two dimensions to Katz’ thought process. The first is that this island would complete Israel’s disengagement from Gaza, still incomplete since the 2005 unilateral withdrawal; the second is that this island would fundamentally turn around Gaza’s deteriorating humanitarian situation, which is spiraling downward toward a disaster that will certainly engulf the Jewish state.
Minister Katz’s perseverance in his advocacy for this island is remarkable.Many have given up on Gaza, believing that no improvements can take place while Hamas continues to rule the Strip. The minister’s concern for the humanitarian well-being of Gazans is also commendable. He pragmatically believes that whether or not Israel likes the coastal enclave’s rulers, there are two million people living there who will be Israel’s neighbors.
Despite the good intentions behind the plan, it suffers from several problems which make it impractical and unrealistic for the foreseeable future.
Haaretz - An Israeli Airstrike on Gaza Nearly Killed Me. But I Recognize Both Sides' Trauma
As Israelis celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut, marking the state's 69th anniversary, Palestinians will be commemorating al-Nakba, the 'catastrophe' of their displacement from historic Palestine. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 occupation of more territories, or to many in Israel, the reunification of Judea and Samaria with the rest of the Jewish State.
While it may be difficult to imagine both peoples moving beyond the violence, resentment, mistrust, and insistence on the legitimacy of one side’s narrative, it is possible that the ground work for such a change can begin now.
Initial steps require a deep understanding of each other’s generational traumas that condition our thoughts and perceptions. In recent years, I’ve had many opportunities to connect with Jews and Israelis to understand their suffering and past traumas, both historic and contemporary, and how that has shaped their experiences and commitment to Israel. That exposure is layered on top of my own Palestinian family’s story.
Times of Israel - Let There Be an Airport in Gaza
In June of 2000, my family and I landed at Gaza’s then-operational International Airport after permanently moving back from Saudi Arabia where my father had worked as a physician. We were onboard a Palestinian Airlines Boeing 727, donated by billionaire Saudi businessman and philanthropist, Al-Waleed bin Talal. Like many Palestinians, my family and I were jubilant that a trip which used to take more than a day to access Gaza via Egypt or Jordan now took a mere two and a half hours of direct flying into the coastal enclave. I vividly remember the flight attendants, the airplane food, the seating layout inside the aircraft, and the reactions of some people, who were clearly not used to flying, when mild turbulence rocked the aircraft mid-way through the flight. I felt that surely, I am experiencing the beginning of a new era in Gaza’s history, and that my life-long love and passion for aviation may actually have a place in Palestine; perhaps I could even eventually work at the airport.
Jerusalem Post - An Airport in Gaza, to the Benefit of All
I have a dream I’m working on tirelessly to turn into reality. It’s to establish a U.N.-operated humanitarian airport for the civilian population in Gaza.
I imagine some readers might react negatively to the mere idea, since I’m talking about Gaza and the United Nations, two contentious topics for many Jews both in Israel and the United States. But I urge you to seriously consider the ambitious proposal put forward by Project Unified Assistance, the nonprofit organization I started last year to make my dream a reality.
Forbes - A Humanitarian Airport For Gaza: An Interview with Ahmed Alkhatib
Ahmed Alkhatib is the founder and director of Project Unified Assistance (PUA), a San Francisco-based 501c(3) nonprofit organization. PUA has made significant progress in both reviving and developing the idea of an internationally-managed humanitarian airport in the Gaza strip, and bringing it to the attention of the relevant governing bodies and stakeholders. The idea is ambitious. Some have called it unlikely. Nevertheless, Alkhatib has received praise from senior U.S. and international policy professionals for his analysis of the security and development concerns of the concerned parties. There are growing indications the major stakeholders might be willing to endorse this concept or something similar. I met with Alkhatib in San Francisco this past week to discuss the origins of the project, its current status and where it might fit in a Trump administration’s foreign policy.
Al-Monitor - Lieberman's airport comment not so ridiculous, says Gaza activist
Though a UN envoy dismissed Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman's recent claim that Israel would be the "first to invest" in a Gaza airport as a "distraction," coverage of the minister’s remarks has drawn attention to a proposed UN-administered facility approved by both Hamas and the Palestinian president.
Donia Al-Watan - Alkhatib to Nickolay Mladenov: The Airport is a Core and Real Issue in Gaza
Project Unified Assistance responded to a statement by Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N.’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, regarding the Gaza Airport issue.
Middle East Institute - Gaza Airport: Stabilizing the Strip with Humanitarian Aviation
The need to address Gaza’s deteriorating humanitarian situation has become urgent not only to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians in the Strip, but to ensure stability in the area. Israel’s recent proposal for an airport and seaport to be built on a manmade island off Gaza is demonstrative of the fact that Israel’s political and military establishment largely acknowledge that the status quo is unsustainable. However, a more immediate and effective option might be a U.N. administered airport inside Gaza that will allow a humanitarian air operation as well as removing the barrier to movement in and out of the Gaza Strip. This paper discusses the merits of such a proposal, which will help stabilize the Gaza Strip.
Matthew Russell Lee - Sudan / 2010
Irene Scott - AP - South Sudan / 2013
Project Unified Assistance is a U.S. based humanitarian non-profit organization advocating for the establishment of a United Nations operated and regulated airport in the Gaza Strip under a humanitarian, politically-neutral framework. This will create a safe, independent aerial corridor that can facilitate the travel of Gaza’s civilian population and others working in the health, relief, aid, development, humanitarian, and charitable fields.
The establishment of an airport to be completely run and managed by the United Nations in the Gaza Strip.
After years of war, destruction, and poverty, an airport for functional, utilitarian purposes could help accelerate Gaza’s reconstruction and redevelopment process. It would also alleviate Gazans’ chronic inability to travel in and out of the Strip in an effective and safe manner.
Why a U.N. Airport
Establishing and operating a United Nations airport in Gaza will benefit the civilian population in a strictly functional context that does not require a major political agreement on final status arrangements between Israel and the Palestinians.
The idea of an international, third-party management of an airport will be acceptable to Israel and the international community especially because the United Nations will be able to address Israeli security needs pertaining to the prevention of smuggling, hijacking, and misuse of the facility.
United Nations management of an airport in Gaza will create an international legal, diplomatic, and financial framework that will protect it and ensure its survivability and sustainability.
Project Unified Assistance's vision is built on:
A significant historic precedent for the idea of a U.N. airport in Gaza. During the 1950s and 60s, the U.N. operated a small airport in the Gaza Strip to support the-then active U.N. Emergency Force. The facility also transported humanitarian cargo and provided weekly passenger flights from Gaza to Lebanon and Cyprus, among other destinations.
A humanitarian airport that fulfills strictly utilitarian needs, implemented as part of the U.N.’s model for humanitarian air operations, can be a practical framework to bring aviation into the coastal enclave. Whether it is done through the U.N. Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) or by establishing a dedicated agency to run the facility and flight operations, such an airport can be implemented in ways that address the complex and nuanced needs of all parties involved—and soon.
A new airport in Gaza would require a fresh approach to achieve utilitarian gains for people in the Strip. A new location away from Egyptian and Israeli borders must be considered to provide alternate routes for incoming and outgoing flights over the Mediterranean Sea and protect the site from being too close to military confrontation zones.
A recent United Nations report warned that the Gaza Strip will be uninhabitable by 2020 for its 1.8 million residents. Serious changes must be implemented to reverse the damage done to the coastal enclave’s development. Additionally, the World Bank warned in May 2015 that Gaza’s economy is on the verge of collapse and that youth unemployment is the highest in the region at 60%. Israeli authorities understand that Gazans’ inability to travel is a major cause of suffering for the people of Gaza. Any solution, even if partial, in regards to the blockade, will require dealing with this chronic problem.
Purpose of the Airport
Transportation of passengers in and out of the Gaza Strip
Acceleration of Gaza’s reconstruction and redevelopment process through the transportation of qualitative humanitarian aid and other payloads which will contribute to helping the health, food, education, agriculture, and other vital sectors that are necessary for the Strip’s long-term stability.
There are many historic and contemporary precedents that make the Gaza Airport Proposal (GAP) feasible and practical: the United Nations (UN) ran an airport in Gaza during the 1950s and 60s; for the last 30 years, the UN has and continues to conduct humanitarian air operations in areas impacted by violence and disasters; Gaza had a short-lived airport in the last 20 years; international E.U. monitors operated the Rafah Border Crossing in 2005 and 2006; and since the 2014 war, the UN's Office for Project Services (UNOPS) has been implementing the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) with the help of a private company (CTG Global) to ensure that dual-use materials are not diverted for illegitimate use in militant activities. GAP is about hope, mobility and stability for two million people.
Photo #1 is of the then Canadian Defense Minister visiting Canadian troops that were part of the U.N. Emergency Force in Gaza. Photo #2 is of Swedish boxer and former heavyweight champion of the world, Ingemar Johansson, who visited the Gaza Strip to entertain UN troops. It happened back then, it can and should happen again today. Click on the images to access the U.N. Multimedia archives.
What Do Palestinians in Gaza Think About Project Unified Assistance's Proposed U.N. Run and Managed Airport in the Strip?
"I think that the Palestinian people who live in Gaza are humans. One of the basic requirement for humans is the right to free transportation access"
"Yes, I agree with this project because really Gaza need this Airport, it is the only way that we can breathe"
"The right to move from place to place is needed as soon as possible and should be permanent, and secured against any future attack"