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Hundreds of Palestinians cross into Israel to work despite border closure

Footage, photos show West Bank residents streaming unhindered into Israel through holes in security barrier near Hebron

Palestinian workers from the West Bank city of Hebron carry personal belongings as they cross to Israei through a hole in  security fence near Hebron, January 31, 2021. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)
Palestinian workers from the West Bank city of Hebron carry personal belongings as they cross to Israei through a hole in security fence near Hebron, January 31, 2021. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Hundreds of Palestinians have been crossing into Israel despite the closure of West Bank border crossings to curb coronavirus infections in Israel.

Footage and photos published on Sunday showed Palestinian workers crossing through holes in the fence near Hebron in the southern West Bank.

The images are reportedly from the area of the Tarkumiya crossing, where police and military authorities have made no move to stop the widespread flouting of the rules.

Drone footage published by Hebrew media showed a line of Palestinians hurriedly filing through the fence, down a dirt road and across a field to a long line of waiting buses and vans.

Photographs from the same area, but a different crossing, showed men carrying bags making their way a small hole in the fence.

Palestinian workers from the West Bank city of Hebron carry personal belongings as they cross to Israei through a hole in security fence near Hebron, January 31, 2021. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

The border closure is aimed at preventing virus cases among West Bank Palestinians from making their way into Israel.

Apart from the health hazard, settler leaders also highlight the security risk, especially after an attempted stabbing attack earlier Sunday.

The Kan public broadcaster posted a video it said some of the border-crossers posted to TikTok showing themselves making their way through the fence.

Israel’s lockdown, now in its fourth week, has shuttered most businesses and schools, and limited gatherings and movement.

Last week, Israel closed its main airport as well as its border crossings with Egypt and Jordan, essentially halting all international travel.

The lockdown has not successfully curbed the third-wave outbreak, with officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blaming more contagious virus variants that entered Israel from abroad in recent months.

Around 122,000 West Bank Palestinians are employed in Israel and Israeli settlements, according to official Israeli government figures. The vast majority work in construction and agriculture; their incomes constitute nearly a quarter of the Palestinian Authority economy.

As in the first two coronavirus lockdowns, Palestinian workers have been instructed to stay in Israeli territory until the lockdown ends; their employers are obligated to provide them with room and board.

But Palestinian workers have said that some employers were providing scant sleeping quarters, leading to many preferring to cross daily through breaches in the fence.

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