Farmers in Israeli south urge defense minister: Let Gazans work for us

Citing economic and humanitarian concerns, border residents call on government to approve work permits for Palestinians in Hamas-held Strip

Illustrative: A farmer returns from work in the greenhouse of Kibbutz Nahal Oz, near the Israel-Gaza border. (Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)
Illustrative: A farmer returns from work in the greenhouse of Kibbutz Nahal Oz, near the Israel-Gaza border. (Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)

Farmers living on the southern border with Gaza have called on Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to grant entry to hundreds of Palestinian workers from the coastal enclave.

Residents of Israel’s southern Shaar Hanegev and Eshkol regions sent Liberman a letter urging him to permit Gaza workers to enter Israel to work, Channel 2 news reported on Friday. The signatories said their request was based on both economic and humanitarian concerns.

“One is the need of farmers” for additional workers, they said. “The second is the welfare of the Gazan workers,” the letter added.

Although they live under constant threat of missiles fired by Hamas and other terrorist groups from the Gaza Strip, the Israeli farmers maintained that hiring Gazan workers would still be the best option for them.

“We have in mind the possibility of helping a little bit with the welfare of the families suffering in Gaza today,” they wrote. “In our opinion, improving the economic situation of our neighbors is in Israel’s interest.”

Liberman has not yet responded to the request. The TV report did not detail how many farmers had submitted the request or when the letter was sent.

Israel has not granted entry permits to Gazan workers for over a decade, since Hamas took control of the enclave. At least 70 percent of Gazans are dependent upon international aid.

Hamas, a terror group that seeks Israel’s destruction, has ruled Gaza with an iron fist since seizing power in the coastal area in 2007. It has since fought three wars with Israel, firing thousands of rockets into its territory and digging a network of elaborate attack tunnels.

On Wednesday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited Gaza.

Guterres called for the blockade of the Gaza Strip to be lifted as he visited the Palestinian enclave which, he said, is enduring ”one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises” he had seen.

“I am deeply moved to be in Gaza today, unfortunately to witness one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises that I’ve seen in many years working as a humanitarian in the United Nations,” Guterres said.

He later said it was “important to open the closures,” in reference to Israel and Egypt’s blockade of Gaza.

Israel says the blockade it imposed a decade ago is necessary to prevent Hamas from smuggling in weapons to Gaza or the materials need to make them. Goods heading for Gaza are first shipped to Israel for inspection and then trucked into the Palestinian territory after items considered a security risk are removed.

Egypt only allows the opening of the Gaza’s southern border occasionally.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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