History - Gaza's Former International Airport

  • Gaza's ruined airport and unbuilt seaport fuel dreams of independence - Guardian

In a historic December 1998 trip, President Bill Clinton cut the ribbon at a ceremony for the Gaza's International Airport alongside Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Stephen Jaffe/Getty

US President Bill Clinton (right) and his Palestinian counterpart Yasser Arafat, accompanied by their wives, Hillary Clinton (left) and Suhah Arafat, review Palestinian honour guards before the opening of the airport - EPA

In its heyday: A Palestinian Airlines flight bound for Cairo lifts off from the Gaza International Airport in Rafah in January 2001 after it was reopened for the first time in ten days - David Guttenfelder / AP

Palestinians celebrate at the opening of the Gaza International airport on Nov. 24, 1998. Adel Hana / AP

Palestinians stand next to the Flying Hospital, an aircraft carrying dozens of international surgeons at Gaza Airport in Gaza. The aircraft belonged to Operation Smile, an international humanitarian foundation established in 1982 to improve the lives of children worldwide - Reuters

Video: The opening ceremony of Gaza's International Airport - November 24, 1998

Incredible footage which is very inspirational and motivating for us at Project Unified Assistance. Although Project Unified Assistance proposes a different airport model with a new purpose and location, the Organization believes that Gaza's short-lived airport under the Palestinian Authority's control (destroyed in 2002, structure scrapped in 2010) was a true example of dreams becoming a reality after hard work. The experience demonstrated how the seemingly impossible can be achieved, as well as the difficulty of operating an airport right on the border of two sovereign nations.

Our analysis of strategic, political, geographic and humanitarian conditions points to several realities:

 

  • Reviving Gaza's International Airport using the same operations' protocol based on the 1998 Wye River Agreement is impossible and impractical.

  • Given that true political and administrative reconciliation between the West Bank and Gaza seems quite unlikely for the foreseeable future, and that the de-facto Hamas government will remain in control of Gaza, the international community and Israel will not accept the establishment of an airport run by the Palestinians themselves.

  • Israel will not allow an airport to be established in the old location at the south easternmost part of the Strip because of the close proximity to its borders and airspace. A new airport has to be as far away from Israeli borders and airspace as possible.