Yasser Arafat International Airport, formerly Gaza International Airport, is located in the Gaza Strip, in between Rafah and Dahaniya, close to the Egyptian border.
The airport --which was in service for only a short period of time-- is owned, and was operated by the State of Palestine and served as the domestic airport for Palestinian Airlines.
At one point, it had a handling capacity of 700,000 passengers per year and operated 24 hours, 364 days a year. It gave the people of the Gaza strip better access to the world outside their narrow, densely populated confines.
The airport was built with funding from Japan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and Germany and designed by Moroccan architects and engineers dispatched by Morocco's King Hassan II. The total cost was $86 million.
After a year of construction, it opened on November 24 1998. Attendees at the inauguration ceremony included the late President of the Palestinian National Authority Yasser Arafat and then-U.S. President Bill Clinton.
"It may look like a little airport to you, but to us, it's bigger than John F. Kennedy,'' Nabil Shurafa, a travel agent in Gaza City told The New York Times back then.
The long awaited airport didn't last long though; it ceased operations during the Second Intifada on October 8, 2000. The radar station and control tower were destroyed by the Israeli Air Force on December 4 2001. The airport closed in 2001 after sustaining heavy damages by the Israeli army.
Shortly thereafter, Israeli bulldozers destroyed the runway on January 10 2002.
The only Palestinian owned aerial way out for the people of Gaza was no more.
Today, residents of the besieged Gaza strip have to travel through checkpoints and border crossings, sometimes for days, till they finally reach airports in Israel, Jordan, and Egypt --that's if they're granted passage.
On July 22, 2010, and as part of UNRWA‘s Gaza Summer Games, 7,203 Gazan children between the ages of 6 and 15 participated in setting a new Guinness World Record for the simultaneous dribbling of basketballs on the airport's undamaged tarmac ramp, doubling the previous Guinness Book of World Records record set in 2007, UNRWA said.
Organizers at the time said the UN event aimed to instill hope in a better future through fun and games.
The state of Palestine has an airline, but not a single airport. The Palestinian Airlines was founded in 1995 and started operating on July 23 1997 with a series of flights from Al Arish in Egypt, to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.
In 1998, the airlines started operating in Gaza till it was forced to be moved again to Al Arish in December 2001 after the attack on the only Palestinian domestic airport by the state of Israel.
The Palestinian airlines is completely owned by the Palestinian Authority but not recognized by the Egyptian Ministry of Civil Aviation. It stopped its operations in 2005 but resumed service in May 2012. Its current base is El Arish International Airport.
Will the state of Palestine ever have an airport again?