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OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel gave preliminary approval for the development of a gas field off the Gaza Strip on Sunday while saying it would require security coordination with the Palestinian Authority and neighbouring Egypt.

If concluded, the agreement would be a boost for the cash-strapped Palestinian economy. Announcing the move on the Gaza Marine project, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said progress would hinge on “preserving the State of Israel’s security and diplomatic needs”.

While Egypt and Israel have been producing gas in the eastern Mediterranean for years, the Gaza Marine field, about 30 km (20 miles) off the Gaza coast, has remained undeveloped due to political disputes and conflict with Israel, as well as economic factors.

Gaza Marine is estimated to hold over 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, much more than is needed to power the Palestinian territories and some of which could potentially be exported.

The Palestinian Authority did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We are waiting to know what exactly the Israelis have agreed to in details. We can’t make a position based on a statement to the media,” one Palestinian official told Reuters. Hamas official Ismail Rudwan told Reuters: “We reaffirm that our people in Gaza have the rights to their natural resources.”

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