Gaza Border Fence Jumpers on Rise

GAZA-ISRAEL BORDER (Reuters) -
Israeli soldiers repairing a malfunction in Israel’s border fence with southern Gaza. (REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Israeli soldiers repairing a malfunction in Israel’s border fence with southern Gaza. (REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

While it is by no means a mass phenomenon, a rising number of Palestinians are trying their luck at jumping the fence from Gaza into Israel. Barely a week goes by without a report from Israeli security forces of another attempt.

The Israeli military says it has caught 130 in the past year. It won’t provide comparative figures, but the anecdotal evidence from Gazans and organizations that monitor the trend is that numbers have been climbing steadily.

Poverty and the lack of prospects in Hamas-ruled Gaza are driving young people to take ever-greater risks.

In May, the World Bank said Gaza’s economy was in the worst state in the world, with the world’s highest unemployment rate at 43 percent, rising to nearly 70 percent among 20-24 year olds.

Palestinians in Gaza, unlike those in Yehudah and Shomron, are not permitted to work in Israel, which stopped issuing work permits to Gazans when the strip fell under control of Hamas.

A day’s labor on a construction site without a work permit in Israel can pay around 250 shekels ($66), according to Israeli watchdog Workers Hotline. In Gaza, it would be a fifth of that.

But jumping the fence comes with huge risks.

Israeli law allows punishment of up to five years in jail for unarmed infiltration across its borders. Crossing with a weapon risks up to 15 years in jail and crossing with a firearm or explosives can carry a life sentence.

Hamas has its own reasons for trying to stop them and has increased security along the border, according to Hamas interior ministry spokesman Eyad al-Bozom. The fear is that some of the fence jumpers will be pressured by Israel into becoming collaborators — supplying intelligence on Hamas.