Israeli minister proposes Gaza artificial island

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM, March 30 (Reuters) – Israel is considering building an artificial island with sea and air ports off blockaded Gaza, as a long-term solution to shipping goods into the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave, the transport minister said.

Yisrael Katz told Army Radio on Wednesday he wants an international force to control the island for “at least 100 years” and for unloaded cargo to be brought into Gaza along a 4.5-km (3-mile)-long bridge with a security checkpoint to prevent arms smuggling.

“The Israeli military would continue the naval blockade, but in a more localised way,” he said.

Katz said he had pitched the project to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told him to put together a plan, which “has been under examination for many months” by experts.

A spokesman for the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority described the idea as “pure fantasy” and an attempt by Israel “to divert attention from the real problems of Gaza resulting from the Israeli siege”.

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