Israel said planning to ease restrictions on Gaza, pressuring Hamas to keep the calm

Report says Jerusalem believes Strip’s economic deterioration must be stopped even without deal to free Israeli captives; could increase work permits, allow some dual-use materials

A general view of Gaza City is seen December 12, 2021. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)
A general view of Gaza City is seen December 12, 2021. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)

Israel is planning to ease a series of restrictions currently in place on the Gaza Strip, aiming to alleviate some of the territory’s economic woes and prompt the population to pressure the Hamas terror group to keep the calm, according to a report Sunday morning.

Among the moves allegedly being weighed is increasing the number of work permits for Gazans in Israel and allowing some dual-use materials to enter. in coordination with the UN. which will ensure they are used for civilian purposes rather than terror, the Haaretz daily reported, citing unnamed security sources.

However, the plan would go against Israel’s frequent assertions that Gaza’s reconstruction would be conditioned on a deal that would see Hamas release two Israeli civilians and the bodies of two IDF soldiers it is believed to be holding, likely in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

Security sources are reportedly contending, however, that the economic deterioration in Gaza must be stopped immediately, regardless of other issues.

Any easing of restrictions would likely spark outrage from the families of soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul and civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, as well as activists and many security hawks who argue that no conciliatory moves should be taken as long as Hamas is holding Israeli captives.

Israel has already eased a number of restrictions as calm has largely prevailed since an intense, deadly 11-day round of fighting in May that saw Palestinian terror groups launch thousands of rockets at Israeli cities and retaliatory Israeli strikes that devastated parts of the impoverished Strip.

Israel and Egypt have imposed a tight blockade on Gaza since 2007, when Hamas took over the territory from the rival Palestinian Authority in a bloody coup. The blockade is meant to limit Hamas efforts to arm itself.

Illustrative: Smoke rises following Israeli missile strikes on Gaza City on May 13, 2021. (AP/Khalil Hamra)

Since the May escalation, Israel has granted work permits to some 10,000 workers, increased the daily goods transferred into the Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing, allowed new and old vehicles to enter the territory and expanded the offshore fishing zone to 16 nautical miles.

Now, according to Haaretz, the government and defense officials are interested in increasing the number of work permits for Gazans, though officials aren’t agreeing about the new number of such permits.

The report said Israel is currently in negotiations with the UN over a deal that would see currently banned dual-use materials allowed into the Strip. One such material is fiberglass, which is needed to repair fishing boats and communications infrastructure, but can also be used to produce rockets and UAVs.

Such a deal, if approved, would reportedly see the materials enter the Strip, with UN inspectors in charge of confirming that they are used only for civilian purposes. The report didn’t say how such a mechanism would be enforced.

The report added that the government is weighing renewed permits for Gazans to pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, in what would be a first since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Any such permit, Haaretz said, would be conditioned on the Shin Bet security service affirming that the worshiper isn’t involved in terrorism.

A security source was quoted as saying Israel should ease restrictions as much as possible during calm times, since that could create public pressure on the terror group to maintain the calm.

If the group then chose to resume violence, “let Hamas explain to 10,000 traders and workers why it was important for the group to escalate the situation,” the source was quoted as saying.

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