Israel has reportedly agreed to ease ıts blockade on the Gaza Strip by opening a sea trade corridor connecting the enclave to the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus as part of a long-term ceasefire deal with Hamas.
According to the London-based pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat, which cited Palestinian sources in Gaza with inside information from recent meetings between Hamas’ political leader Khaled Meshal and former Quartet envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair, the proposed period for a ceasefire is seven to ten years.
Meshal met with Blair in Doha, Qatar, on Tuesday, Al Jazeera reported. However, Hamas has not yet made any official statement regarding indirect talks with Israel to end the conflict.
Speaking to the Times of Israel, Ramallah-based Hamas leader Sheikh Hassan Youssef said he had no knowledge of the reported deal. “I heard about it this morning, but I can neither confirm or deny,” he said.
A report released by Israeli news website Ynet last year claimed a proposed sea trade route was being discussed between European and Palestinians officials to open the port of Gaza to cargo shipments to and from the port of Larnaca in Cyprus.
Trade between the two ports would be monitored by European observers at both ends of the route in order to ensure security.
A similar proposal made by the EU in 2010 was not realised. Cyprus Mail reported that should a deal be reached, goods would be shipped into Gaza by transferring cargo from ships to ferries out at sea as the port of Gaza cannot accommodate cargo ships.
Israel has enforced a blockade on Gaza since Hamas came to power in the enclave in 2007, leaving its population of 1.8 million people suffering from extreme shortages of essential resources.
There have been numerous attempts by international activists to break the blockade in recent years. Most notably, nine Turkish activists were shot dead by Israeli commandos in international waters while they were on their way to deliver aid to Gaza as part of the Mavi Marmara flotilla in May 2010.
The blockade was briefly eased on the Egyptian side in 2012 when then-president Mohamed Morsi gave permission for the Rafah crossing connecting Egypt and Gaza to be opened, allowing in vital supplies.
However, the crossing was closed again after Morsi was deposed in a military coup in July 2013. The Egyptian army has also been targeting tunnels running under the border that are used to smuggle goods in and out of the enclave.