Gaza workers allowed into Israel from Tuesday, ending 2-day closure after rockets

Military liaison to Palestinians says continued opening of pedestrian crossing depends on ‘security stability’; 12,000 Gazan workers were barred on Sunday, Monday

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

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)
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)

Following two days of closure, the Erez Crossing with the Gaza Strip will reopen Tuesday, the military’s liaison to the Palestinians announced Monday evening.

The pedestrian crossing between Israel and the Hamas-run coastal enclave was shuttered at the beginning of the week over recent rocket attacks on southern Israel.

With its reopening, thousands of Palestinians with work permits can again enter Israel.

The number of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who can work in Israel was raised to 12,000 last month, and the government said it would soon raise it by an additional 8,000, to a total of 20,000.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, known by its acronym COGAT, said on Monday that the move depended on “maintained security stability in the region.” The decision was made following a situational assessment by security officials.

The closure came following renewed rocket fire on the south on Friday night and overnight Saturday. The crossing had already been shuttered from Thursday afternoon during the last days of the Passover holiday.

Two rockets are seen being launched from Gaza on April 22, 2022. (Screenshot: Twitter)

The weekend rockets were the fifth attack on southern Israel in a week, after one fell short in Gaza on Thursday, one landed near a home in the city of Sderot on Wednesday, and another was shot down by air defenses on Monday.

Recent rocket attacks on southern Israel have been blamed on Hamas rival Palestinian Islamic Jihad. But it is largely believed that Hamas has enough of a stronghold in the coastal enclave that no rival group would fire at Israel without the ruling group’s tacit approval, at the very least.

On Sunday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz indicated that Hamas may face harsher Israeli action in response to rocket fire at Israel.

“We will continue to show civil and economic generosity only if security stability is maintained,” Gantz said following a meeting with top military officials at the IDF’s Southern Command.

“Terror organizations and perpetrators of incitement must remember: It is those whose economic, civilian, and military situation is unstable who will be severely harmed by any unrest,” Gantz said according to a statement from his office.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, during a meeting at the IDF Southern Command base in Beersheba, alongside military chief Aviv Kohavi (left), and Shin Bet head Ronen Bar (right), among other officials, April 24, 2022. (Elad Malka/Defense Ministry)

The rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip came at the tail-end of a tension-filled day in Jerusalem, where Israeli nationalists were prevented by police from marching through the Old City’s Damascus Gate, a popular gathering point for Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Hamas had threatened to attack if the march went ahead.

The last few days have seen violent clashes between Palestinian rioters and police on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, leading to the injury of dozens of Palestinians and several police officers.

Hamas and other Gaza-based terror groups have repeatedly invoked the flashpoint holy site as a red line. Police actions to quell riots there last year were among the triggers of an 11-day war in Gaza last May.

The Gaza Strip has been blockaded by both Israel and Egypt for 15 years in an attempt to contain the enclave’s Hamas rulers and other groups. Israel says the tight restrictions on goods and people are necessary due to efforts by Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, to massively arm itself for attacks against the Jewish state.

Critics lament the blockade’s impact on ordinary Gazans, around 50 percent of whom are unemployed, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. The sky-high poverty rates make employment in Israel a highly attractive option for those lucky enough to receive permits.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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