Gaza Airport Opens

The Gaza International Airport opened November 24, 1998. The first flight to land was an Egypt Air plane that was greeted by dozens of Palestinian dignitaries. Later the first Palestinian Airlines plane, a Fokker 50, landed to the cheers of thousands of Palestinians who came to celebrate the opening.

The $75 million airport is expected to boost the ailing Palestinian economy by making it easier to export flowers and agricultural products. It will also make it easier for Palestinians to travel abroad.

Israel continues to control the airspace around Gaza and has the authority to shut down the airport at any time. Palestinians in the West Bank also still require special permits from Israel to go to the airport. For now, Israelis are not allowed to use the airport for security reasons.

The airport has no air traffic control systems yet and lacks other operational equipment, some of which is being held by Israel until the Palestinians pay storage fees that are due.

For Palestinians, the airport represents an important symbolic step toward independence.