Erez Crossing reopens after two weeks, allowing 12,000 Gazans back to work

Decision draws mixed responses, with some politicians saying it will help ease tensions with the Palestinians and others arguing it’s an unnecessary concession

Palestinian workers wait at the Erez crossing in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, as they wait to enter Israel for work, on March 13, 2022. (Attia Muhammed/Flash90)
Palestinian workers wait at the Erez crossing in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, as they wait to enter Israel for work, on March 13, 2022. (Attia Muhammed/Flash90)

The Erez Crossing with the Gaza Strip reopened on Sunday morning, nearly two weeks after it was closed, drawing mixed responses from Israeli lawmakers.

Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians announced the decision on Saturday evening.

Keeping the crossing open “will be possible in accordance with situational assessments and the preservation of security stability,” the Defense Ministry body, known as COGAT, said in a statement.

Reopening the crossing will enable the 12,000 Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled enclave who hold Israeli work permits to once again enter Israel.

A recent World Bank report put the unemployment rate in Gaza, home to some 2.3 million people, at nearly 48 percent, with work in Israel a vital lifeline to the enclave’s economy.

Speaking to Army Radio on Sunday morning, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar denounced the decision, arguing that Israel “should hold onto things it can leverage against Hamas.”

The Gaza Strip, he argued, “is an industry of opposition to Israel and as far as we’re concerned it has an address — the ruler of Gaza, Hamas.”

He added: “If we allow [Hamas ruler Yahya] Sinwar special conditions while he provokes, that would be a great mistake. We need to change the equation.”

Palestinian workers are seen at the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip, as they wait to enter Israel for work, on March 13, 2022. (Attia Muhammed/Flash90)

On Saturday, Sa’ar said, “Sinwar and Hamas, who are engaged nonstop in terror and incitement, should be removed from their comfort zone.”

“Renewing the entry of workers from Gaza into Israel at this time is not justified or correct,” he said of the decision.

Housing and Construction Minister Ze’ev Elkin, of Sa’ar’s right-wing New Hope party and like him a member of the high-level security cabinet, echoed his remarks.

“Now, specifically, the reopening of the Erez Crossing is unnecessary,” Elkin told Army Radio Sunday. “Even if Hamas does not bear responsibility for every terrorist attack carried out recently, it definitely encourages them.”

“The activity carried out by our security forces, which prevents many of the attacks, is the thing that will stop them. So I think that security-wise as well, it would have been best to wait,” Elkin added.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (front) and Housing and Construction Minister Zeev Elkin attend a discussion at the Knesset, May 9, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej, on the other hand, welcomed the move, claiming it will ease the tensions with the Palestinians.

“[Reopening the Erez Crossing] is a wise and right step that will promote peace and security,” the lawmaker, a member of the left-wing Meretz party, said.

Erez has been closed since May 3, when Israel shut down crossings to both Gaza and the West Bank during Memorial Day and Independence Day. It was due to reopen on May 6, but Israel kept it shuttered in the wake of a deadly terror attack on Independence Day.

Two Palestinian terrorists used an axe and a knife to kill three Israelis in Elad. The attack came days after Sinwar gave a speech urging Palestinians to strike Israelis with whatever they had — including axes.

“Let everyone who has a rifle, ready it. And if you don’t have a rifle, ready your cleaver or an axe, or a knife,” Sinwar said at the time.

Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s Gaza governor, speaks during a meeting in Gaza City, on April 30, 2022. (Mahmud Hamas/AFP)

Following the attack, Israeli officials reportedly warned Sinwar that he could face retaliation if he continues his incitement.

Israeli has recently revoked entry permits from over 1,100 Palestinians whose relatives were involved in terror attacks, including several recent deadly assaults.

“Any Palestinian who thinks of choosing the way of terror should know that the attack he commits will critically harm his family,” an official was quoted by Hebrew media as saying last week.

“Israel possesses quite a few civilian tools for addressing security issues,” another official said. “We can see families expressing anger toward the terrorists in light of the permits being revoked.”

AFP contributed to this report. 

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