Israel Reopens Gaza Crossings After 2 Weeks

A Palestinian police officer watches a line of Palestinian workers, as they enter the reopened Erez crossing into Israel, Thursday. (REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

GAZA (Reuters) – Israel reopened crossing points with Gaza on Thursday, allowing thousands of Palestinian workers to get to their jobs in Israel, after nearly two weeks of closures prompted by violent protests along the border.

Around 18,000 Gazans have permits from Israeli authorities to work outside the Gaza Strip, providing an injection of cash amounting to some $2 million a day to the impoverished territory’s economy.

The move comes amid stepped-up international efforts by Egypt and the United Nations to defuse tensions.

For around two weeks, protestors throwing stones and explosive devices have faced off against IDF troops who have responded with live fire, killing at least one man and wounding dozens more.

Protests on Wednesday were less intense, and so was the Israeli response. A Palestinian official familiar with mediation efforts told Reuters the development came “upon the request of mediators to de-escalate tensions.”

Desperate to go back to their jobs, workers began to flock to the Palestinian side of the crossing soon after Israel made the announcement late on Wednesday.

COGAT, the Israeli Defense Ministry agency that coordinates with the Palestinians, said security assessments would determine whether the border remained open.

Hazem Qassem, a spokesman for the Hamas terror group that rules Gaza and opposes peace deals with Israel, said Israel was constantly violating Gazans’ fundamental right to freedom of movement with repeated border closures and the blockade of Gaza.

Israel blocks many goods from entering Gaza with Egyptian backing, citing security concerns, and also reserves the right to restrict exports.

According to IMF figures, per capita income in Gaza is only a quarter of that of Palestinians in Yehudah and Shomron. The World Bank says unemployment is nearly 50%.

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