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Gantz touts plan to let in tens of thousands more Palestinian laborers

Defense minister says move will increase security for Israel and benefit both the Israeli and Palestinian economies; IDF deploying two more battalions to West Bank

Defense Minister Benny Gantz tours the West Bank security barrier, on April 12, 2022. (Elad Malka/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz tours the West Bank security barrier, on April 12, 2022. (Elad Malka/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Tuesday that his office was working on plans to allow tens of thousands more Palestinian workers into Israel legally, as Israel aims to seal up gaps in the West Bank security barrier.

Gantz toured parts of the security barrier in the northern West Bank where a Palestinian terrorist entered Israel to carry out a deadly shooting attack in Tel Aviv last week.

“Alongside intelligence, offensive and defensive operations, we are advancing solutions that will enable tens of thousands of additional workers to enter Israel in an orderly manner,” Gantz said during the tour.

He revealed that he has instructed relevant bodies to prepare a plan that also includes upgrading the border crossings.

“It will improve security and improve both the Israeli economy and the Palestinian economy. We will continue to fight terrorism and take care of the economy,” he added.

Israel has recently been increasing the number of work permits it is issuing to Palestinians from both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. There are currently around 130,000 West Bank Palestinians who have permits to work in Israel and Israeli settlements in the West Bank. At the end of last month, the government said it will raise the number of permits for Gazans to work in Israel by an additional 8,000, to a total of 20,000.

Israeli soldiers stand guard at a breach in the security fence which have been used daily by thousands of Palestinian workers to illegally enter Israel for work, near the Meitar checkpoint, south of Hebron in the West Bank, on April 3, 2022. (Hazem Bader/ AFP)

Israeli security services say the Tel Aviv gunman, Ra’ad Hazem, crossed illegally into Israel through a break in the security barrier.

There are many gaps in the West Bank barrier, and the IDF has dispatched thousands of troops in recent weeks to the seam zone area to prevent Palestinians from crossing into Israel. Though some of the barrier is a concrete wall, much of it is just fencing.

On Tuesday, the IDF said it was further bolstering troops along the West Bank security barrier. Two more battalions — one infantry and one from the IDF’s Combat Engineering Corps — as well as two heavy equipment companies, were being deployed.

On Sunday, ministers approved NIS 300 million (some $93 million) in funding to upgrade a 40-kilometer stretch of the barrier in the northern West Bank.

Thursday’s shooting killed three and broke a tense calm that had set in since March 28, when a Palestinian terrorist opened fire in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak, killing five people.

Other attacks in recent weeks in Hadera and Beersheba by Arab Israelis, thought to have been inspired by Islamic State, left six others dead.

Early Tuesday morning a Palestinian man who did not have a permit to be in Israel stabbed a policeman in the southern city of Ashkelon as officers carried out a routine check for illegal laborers at a building site. The assailant was shot and killed.

The escalation has come amid the Muslim holy month of Ramadan — often a period of high tension in Israel and the West Bank. Israel has ramped up security measures in response to the attacks and deployed additional forces to the West Bank, Gaza border and major cities such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

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