link Gaza-With Europe at a standstill, awaiting Iceland's cloud of volcanic ash to dissipate over its air space, Gaza's international airport remains unhindered by its chaos.
The Yasser Arafat International Airport did not bare witness to stranded travelers sleeping in waiting halls, with hordes of travelers commuting back and forth in the hopes of catching a flight home as the volcanic emission closes off Europe's airspace.
A much darker cloud prevails over Gaza's runways and terminals. Forced to shut down nearly 10 years ago, it continues to suffer from daily losses while its former employees remain jobless.
Its runways are destroyed, its radar unused, and its control tower in ruins, employees feel they have been "placed on the shelf," unable to find work. Since its closure at the beginning of 2001, following an Israeli airstrike, the sole Palestinian airport no longer caters to travelers.
"The airport's runway is losing stones everyday which Gaza residents use for construction, after they were convinced that it would never operate again. Even if it were, it would take years of contracting to repair," one employee said.
Located southeast of Rafah, the former airport lies on 3,750 square meters of land. It began operating in 1998, serving Palestinian Airlines, which had three planes in service: a Boeing 727, with 12 first-class seats and 146 in economy, and two Fokker 50s, serving 48 passengers.
All three planes were sent to Amman, Jordan following the closure.
Fifteen pilots and 450 members of staff were employed at the international airport, working three shifts. When an Israeli ban on Palestinian commercial flights was enforced, however, the three planes would take off from Port Said, Egypt.
Passengers could fly to Jordan, the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and Cyprus. A high volume of transit prevailed as Palestinians were eager to travel from their first national airport. Operating 24 hours a day, the facility had a capacity of 700,000 passengers.
The airport was operational for two years, before being severally damaged by Israeli forces in 2001
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