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Israel freezes move to allow in 2,000 more Gaza workers after rocket attack

Military liaison to Palestinians says Hamas bears responsibility for attack; Thursday’s announcement on expanding permits to 14,000 was contingent on ‘security stability’

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)

Israel froze a move that would expand the quota of work permits for Gazan Palestinians to 14,000 on Saturday, after terrorists in the coastal enclave launched a rocket toward southern Israel.

Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians, widely known by its acronym COGAT, had announced Thursday that an additional 2,000 permits would be added to the quota.

But following a rocket attack in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz decided to freeze the move, COGAT said in a statement on Saturday night.

“The Hamas terror group bears responsibility for everything that is done in and emanates from the Gaza Strip towards the State of Israel, and it will bear the consequences,” the statement said.

The rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, and the Israel Defense Forces struck several Hamas sites in response.

The Defense Ministry has signed off on a tentative plan to eventually raise the number of Gaza permits to 20,000, a dramatic and unprecedented increase. In mid-2021, just 7,000 Palestinians from Gaza had permits to work or trade in Israel.

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)

Defense officials say allowing more Gazans to work in Israel will pump much-needed income into the impoverished coastal enclave while encouraging stability.

“All the civilian steps toward Gaza are dependent on continued security stability over time. Whether to expand them or not will be determined accordingly,” COGAT had said on Thursday.

Qatari envoy to the Gaza Strip Mohammad al-Emadi, who regularly meets with both Israeli and Palestinian officials, told Gaza media in April that Israel had pledged to eventually raise the quota to 30,000 permits.

The Gaza Strip has been blockaded by both Israel and Egypt for over 15 years in an attempt to contain the enclave’s Hamas rulers. Israel says the tight restrictions on goods and people are necessary due to the terror group’s efforts 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.

In Gaza, Palestinian workers can expect an average daily wage of about NIS 60 ($17.35). The few allowed to cross into Israel to work might get as much as NIS 400 ($115.66) per day, according to a report in Times of Israel sister site Zman Yisrael.

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