Gazans thrilled as Israel raises number of permitted workers to 7,000

Restrictions are again loosened after a recent reduction in attacks from the Strip.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The government announced Tuesday that it would relax a number of restrictions on the people of the Gaza Strip, a carrot offered after Hamas terrorists stopped the launch of explosive devices into Israel in the last few days.

“In light of the relative calm in the Gaza envelope in recent days and the cessation of explosive balloons, it was decided after a security consultation to restore the civilian measures that were halted last weekend,” the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said.

Gazans were delighted at the news, Ynet reports. “Everyone wants to work [in Israel], everyone wants quiet, and a good life,” said Nahed Halees, a worker from Gaza, told Ynet. He entered Israel through the Erez border crossing.

COGAT offered the caveat: “The continuation of this policy will be determined by action on the ground. Hamas is responsible for what is happening in Gaza and from Gaza. If the calm is not preserved, Israel will act accordingly.”

Easing includes expanding the permitted fishing zone from 10 to 15 nautical miles off the Gaza coast after two weeks of restriction, giving permits to 7,000 day workers to enter Israel instead of the current 5,000. This number includes 2,000 merchants.

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This is the highest number of permitted entries in at least a decade, according to daily paper Yediot Ahronot. Allowing more workers into Israel has been one of the key Hamas demands in exchange for a promise of quiet on Israel’s border.

Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said that despite the tough rhetoric against Hamas from government officials, including the prime minister, they prefer coming to an arrangement with Hamas.

“Believe me, we could conquer Gaza very quickly, we have the power,” he said, but Israel has no interest in being in charge of the Arabs living there.

“There are very, very sharp and clear plans, they would suffer a very heavy blow, [the plans] include everything. But before you go out to battle you make every effort to avoid it. We are making this effort. I applaud the prime minister and the security services, who also know how to show restraint despite that it is perhaps not popular.”

“I agree that it’s not the ideal situation,” he continued, “but we understand we’re not dealing with a state but with terror organizations…. We can flatten Gaza, destroy all their infrastructure, and be left with two million people and outbreaks of disease, and the whole world on top of us. You have to see a much bigger picture.”