By Zakaria al-Madhoun
GAZA, Saturday, November 24, 2018 (WAFA) – On this day, 20 years ago, the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat inaugurated Gaza International Airport in Rafah, the most southern point in the Gaza Strip.
That day was not like any other day, recalled Mohammad el-Baz, who covered the event live for Palestine TV. “Inaugurating the airport was not a normal development for the Palestinian people and leadership represented by Yasser Arafat.”
Gaza International Airport, also called Yasser Arafat Airport, had one runway 3080 meters long and 60 meters wide. Construction on the airport started in January 1996 when Arafat laid the foundation stone for the airport.
Soon, the airport became Palestine, and specifically Gaza’s, main gate to the outside world until 2001 when Israel bombed it, totally destroying it and turning it into rubble.
Today, the airport is a dumping ground where you only see garbage and a golden yellow dome, the only thing left of the airport.
The airport was built on a 2350 dunums of land and had a 4000-square meter terminal hall that could accommodate 750,000 travelers a year. It also had a control tower and many other facilities just like any other airport in the world.
The airport building was designed according to Arab Islamic architecture with domes as in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Baz said an Egyptian plane was the first to land at Gaza International Airport carrying an official delegation and artists. Other planes arrived from Morocco, Algeria, Jordan and Europe.
He said the first Palestinian plane that landed in the airport was received with great joy and cheers when the pilot and his staff came out of the plane. They were carried on the shoulders as people sang and danced.
Baz hopes that the airport will be rebuilt, saying: “It’s a different feeling when you travel from your own airport and return home through your airport. I hope this dream will come true again.”