Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, Abu Mazin, addressed on Friday hundreds of residents who gathered at the Gaza airport, saying that it will be reopened as soon as its reconstruction is concluded.
The residents gathered at the destroyed airport wearing shirts written on them Ã¢â‚¬Å“Gaza today, Jerusalem and the West Bank tomorrowÃ¢â‚¬Â, and welcomed Abbas who arrived their along with Mahmoud Dahlan, minister of civil affairs, and a number of officials.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The sacrifices of the martyrs, the wounded and the detainees, made the occupation leave Gaza and evacuate the settlementsÃ¢â‚¬Â, Abbas said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“This step will be followed by further withdrawals from the West Bank and JerusalemÃ¢â‚¬Â.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We came here to visit the airport of martyr, Yasser Arafat, and tomorrow we will come here to attend our flightsÃ¢â‚¬Â, Abbas added, Ã¢â‚¬Å“This is our gateway to the rest of the world, and we will reopen it, God willing, soonÃ¢â‚¬Â.
Gaza International Airport was opened in 1998 after the Y-River Agreement between the P.A and Israel. Former US president Bill Clinton visited the airport and held, with the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, the official ceremonies of opening the airport.
The airport was built with funding from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and Germany, as well as the aid of Moroccan architects. The total cost was $86 million. It was formally inaugurated on the 24 November 1998, after a year of construction. It boasted one runway of 3080m x 60m, and a terminal with intricately designed ceilings and walls and state of the art equipment.
The runway and several constructions of the airport, as well as the radar station and the exterior camera security system were all destroyed by the Israeli army after the start of the Al-Aqsa intifada, after Israel claimed that it was being used to smuggle weapons and terrorists. However, no examples of such smuggling were provided.