On September 30, Israel peacefully allowed thousands of Palestinians to enter the Gaza Strip for conducting business and working in menial jobs. This is reportedly part of an understanding with the ruling militant group, Hamas which is focussed on preventing the fourth war in the blockaded territory. The work permits of thousands were revoked by Israel when it joined Egypt in imposing a paralyzing blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized power from Palestinian forces in 2007. The Gaza economy has been devasted because of the blockade along with three wars between Hamas and Israel making the unemployment rate more than 50%.
As a part of an unofficial, Egyptian-brokered truce with Hamas, Israel has been providing some relief in exchange of reduced rocket fire from the territory. Hamas has also scaled back the weekly protests along the borders. This has further allowed Hamas to pay for its civil servants and Qatar to deliver millions of dollars in cash. The United Nations has also increased its aid efforts for the same. Israel has reportedly expanded a programme in which it provided hundreds of permits to business owners to travel to the country as well as the West Bank for commerce. According to Palestinian officials, they are now also providing 5,000 merchant permits and honouring them to Palestinians who are working as labourers in construction, agriculture, and manufacturing. However, both Hamas officials, as well as the Israeli military body have purportedly refused to comment.
Reportedly, one of the workers who crossed into Israel declared he paid $500 to a Gaza based company in order to get a merchant permit and then he also had to reconnect with a construction firm he had previously worked with before 2007. On September 30, dozens of men carried their personal belongings in duffel bags and plastic sacks through the revolving gates at the Erez crossing into Israel. Every worker had a merchant permit, but evidently many of them seemed first-timers as they were seen asking about the procedures. According to one of the worker, it was a “golden opportunity”. However, since there are no laws that secure their rights, the workers believe their permits can be withdrawn any time if there is a dispute with the employer.
(With AP inputs)