A senior Muslim Brotherhood official has been assigned to manage the Gaza free zone portfolio by Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi. Khairat Al-Shater is one of the prime movers behind the Brotherhood's renaissance project. The appointment was revealed by Abdullah Kandil, the Head of the Chamber of Commerce in Northern Sinai.
According to Egypt's Al Watan newspaper, the Ministry of Economy in Gaza's Hamas-led government is making great efforts to establish the free zone. Formal proposals have been sent to Cairo and are awaiting approval prior to implementation. The zone will serve Egyptians and Palestinians, promoting trade and helping to break the Israeli siege that has been imposed on Gaza since 2006.
The initial cost of the free zone is estimated at $100 million, and it will be developed and operated as a joint private and public sector initiative, and supervised by an Egyptian-Palestinian team.
Israeli security sources claim that the Gaza government has already sent heavy engineering equipment to the border area with Egypt ready to prepare the 200 acre site for the zone. However, the anonymous sources allege mischievously that Egypt does not support the concept, adding that the demolition of tunnels between Gaza and Egypt has led to an increase in the demand for goods through the Karm Al-Salem crossing with Israel. The high volume of orders for sugar, flour and oil from Israel is, it is said, an indication of the number of tunnels destroyed in the past month.
The source added that the Palestinians have preferred to import flour from Egypt as it is cheaper, but the tunnel closures have changed the situation.