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Israel plotting to sever Gaza from Palestine?

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A still image taken from a handout video supplied by the Israeli ministry of intelligence and transportation shows animation of an artificial island off the coast of Gaza. (via REUTERS)

Critics have questioned intentions of some senior Israeli officials who have long pushed the idea of building an artificial island off the coast of the besieged Gaza Strip. They say the Israeli regime is desperately attempting to sever Gaza from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories.

The first, dubbed the "separation plan" from Gaza, which Israel’s minister for intelligence, Israel Katz, has been advocating for the past few years, includes the construction of an island adjacent to the Gaza coast.

The island would sit roughly three miles off the coast of Gaza and be connected to the enclave by a bridge.

Now Katz has made a new video showing how his idea would work. The nearly three-minute animated clip says the island would provide Palestinians with “humanitarian, economic and transportation gateway to the world without endangering Israel’s security.”

If an artificial island was to be created, Katz’s video tells us that the Tel Aviv regime would remain in control of security in the sea around the island and be responsible for security inspections in the port.

The proposed plan is reportedly estimated at $5 billion.

The Israeli minister has indicated in the past that Saudi Arabia or the Chinese might be interested in investing in the venture.

Over the past year-and-a-half, Katz has tried a number of times to raise the concept of an artificial island near Gaza for discussion in the security cabinet. The issue was briefly raised in multiple cabinet meetings.

Senior officers in the Israeli military support Katz's idea and think it should be discussed seriously.

In April, Katz presented his plan to the US special envoy, Jason Greenblatt, when he joined a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the envoy in March at the Prime Minister's office in the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

The second initiative that Katz presented to Greenblatt includes connecting Jordan, the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and other Middle Eastern countries to the port in Haifa via a net of Israeli train tracks.

According to the plan, the tracks of the "valley train" would be expanded east up to the "Sheikh Hussein" border crossing with Jordan. The system of Jordanian train tracks is already connected with that of Saudi Arabia.

"I told Greenblatt that these initiatives would help the connections between Israel, the Sunni Arab countries and the Palestinians as well as change and improve the lives of residents in the area and provide a base for further political initiatives in the future," said Katz.

According to Katz, Greenblatt expressed willingness to persuade Washington to promote the issue.

"The American envoy said that he was deeply impressed and would enlist US President Donald Trump and the American government to pursue the issue," Katz said.

The photo taken on September 4, 2016 shows Israeli Intelligence and Transport Minister Yisrael Katz arriving for the weekly cabinet meeting in the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds. (Photo by AFP)

Reacting to the developments, a senior official from Palestinian resistance movement Hamas has said that the idea of artificial island would be just another way for Israel to maintain its control over the blockaded Palestinian enclave.

The only solution is to allow the Palestinians to build their own seaport on Gaza's shore, the official added.

The Gaza Strip has no sea port and its airport was destroyed in Israeli bombardments.

Critics say the project seeks to isolate Hamas, which controls Gaza. The coastal area has already been effectively cut off from the West Bank, which run by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Gaza itself has been under an all-out land, aerial and naval Israeli blockade since 2007, when Hamas, the democratically elected ruler of Gaza, took control of the coastal sliver.

In addition, environmentalists and Palestinian officials earlier described the venture as “fantasy” and “madness,” and accused the minister of political opportunism.

Husam Zumlot, an aide to President Abbas, has already criticized the idea as "dubious" and "politically motivated," saying it would lead to "the final severing of Gaza from the rest of the occupied territory of the state of Palestine."

Hamas has accused Israel and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority of refusing to grant travel documents to Gazans in need of permission to seek medical treatment outside the besieged coastal enclave.

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The Hamas-run Health Ministry's spokesman, Ashraf al-Qudra, said in Gaza on Tuesday that the number of PA permits granted had decreased hugely in recent months.

The Israeli regime has begun reducing electricity supplies to the besieged Gaza Strip,

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The blockade of Gaza has caused a decline in living standards as well as unprecedented unemployment and poverty.

Israel has also launched several wars on the Palestinian coastal sliver, the last of which began in early July 2014. The Israeli war, which ended on August 26, 2014, killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians.

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