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Palestinian factions slam Lieberman's offer to ease Gaza blockade as 'blackmail'

Oct. 24, 2016 6:24 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 13, 2016 8:19 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip denounced remarks made by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman during a rare interview with Palestinian newspaper al-Quds on Monday, calling the ultra right-wing minister's conditional offer to ease the blockade "blackmail."

In the interview, Lieberman said that Israel would agree to end its stringent blockade on the Gaza Strip and help build an airport, a seaport, and an industrial zone in the coastal enclave if Palestinian factions agreed to stop digging tunnels under the border with Israel and firing rockets at Israeli towns.

Speaking to Ma’an, Hamas movement spokesman Hazim Qasim said that the Israeli-imposed siege on Gaza was a "crime under humanitarian law and must be ended," and that "our people has a natural right to have access to the outside world, including an airport and seaport that can guarantee the right to movement and travel, which are of the most basic of human rights."

However, he said that these rights should not be dependent on blackmail and political stipulations.

"A people under occupation have the right to possess means of power, including military ones, so as to be able to defend themselves against continuous Israeli assaults," Qasim said, adding that this right was “not debatable."

Meanwhile, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) politburo member Salih Zeidan rejected Liberman's proposal, which he said wasn't more than a political maneuver to attempt to blame the Palestinian resistance for the crippling siege imposed on the Gaza Strip.

Zeidan added that Israel had not complied with the truce reached in Cairo following the devastating 2014 conflict, which stipulated that Israel limits the buffer zone inside Gaza to 100 meters and opens more terminals to allow the flow of goods into Gaza.

Zeidan said that the agreement had also stated that Israel allow the construction of a seaport and an airport in the Gaza Strip. Gaza, he added, "has the right to have seaport and airport, but Israel has not complied with what has been agreed on."

Israeli officials had previously evoked the possibility of allowing an airport in Gaza in exchange for a cessation of Palestinian hostilities in March 2015.

The Gaza Strip has suffered under an Israeli military blockade since 2007, when Hamas was elected to rule the territory. Residents of Gaza suffer from high unemployment and poverty rates, as well as the consequences of three devastating wars with Israel since 2008, most recently in the summer of 2014.

The 51-day Israeli offensive by Israeli authorities, resulted in the killings of at least 1,462 Palestinian civilians, a third of whom were children, according to the UN.

The UN has said that the besieged Palestinian territory could become "uninhabitable" by 2020, as its 1.8 million residents remain in dire poverty due to the Israeli blockade that has crippled the economy, while continuing to experience slow-paced reconstruction efforts aimed at rebuilding homes for some 75,000 Palestinians who remain displaced since 2014.
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