Israel okays 1,500 more entry permits for Gaza workers, bringing total to 17,000

But military liaison to Palestinians stresses that expansion of quota — to an eventual 20,000 — is contingent on ‘security stability’

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

Passengers at the Erez border crossing that is used by Gazans coming for medical treatment in Israel. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)
Passengers at the Erez border crossing that is used by Gazans coming for medical treatment in Israel. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Israel will raise the quota of work permits for Gazan Palestinians to 17,000 next week, expanding a policy that defense officials view as a means of maintaining quiet on the country’s southern front.

An additional 1,500 permits are to be added, Israel’s military liaison office to the Palestinians, widely known by its acronym COGAT, said Thursday. The move came following an assessment by Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

The move is set to begin next week, after Rosh Hashanah, COGAT said in a statement.

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

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,” COGAT said.

Palestinian men gather to apply for work permits in Israel, at Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, on October 6, 2021. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Last month, Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alian, the head of COGAT, touted steps Israel has taken to strengthen the economy in the Gaza Strip while foiling military buildup by terror groups there.

“The policy consists of a military effort to thwart military buildup, and critically striking at any attempt to harm the security of Israel, alongside a proactive civilian policy aimed at the general public,” Alian said.

According to COGAT, crossings between Gaza and Israel increased by 311% percent this year. In 2020, some 122,400 crossings were recorded; in 2021 the number rose to 163,500; and this year the number shot up to 672,000, according to the data.

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)

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% 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 The Times of Israel’s sister site Zman Yisrael.

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