Israel triples work permits for Gazans, grants fishing rights, despite ongoing border riots

Israel has rolled out a number of humanitarian measures in Gaza, despite ongoing riots and violence along the border. 

By Donna Rachel Edmunds, World Israel News

In a gesture of goodwill, Israel has announced a raft of humanitarian measures for Gaza, despite nightly riots currently raging on the enclave’s border.

On Wednesday, Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians, formerly known as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), released details of the measures, which came into effect Wednesday morning.

They include expanding the Gazan fishing zone to 15 nautical miles, the largest it has been since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, and permitting building materials for private construction to pass through the Kerem Shalom crossing, in addition to those permitted for humanitarian projects.

Both the Kerem Shalom crossing and the fishing zones had been closed during the May war with Hamas, in which some 4,200 rockets were fired by Palestinians into Israel, and they have not been reopened since.

Israel will also issue an additional 5,000 workers’ permits, allowing Gazans to cross into Israel to work — more than tripling the total, which currently stands at 2,000.

And an additional 5 million cubic meters (1.3 billion gallons) of water will be allowed into the Strip, as the existing aquifers are deteriorating.

Jerusalem had attempted to link the measures to the release of the remains of two soldiers killed in the 2014 war and two civilians still being held captive, but apparently backed away from those demands.

“These civil steps were approved by the political echelon and are dependent upon the continued preservation of security stability for an extended period. An extension of them will be considered in accordance with a situational assessment,” the military liaison said in a statement.

The move comes amid violent riots on the border between Gaza and Israel. Hundreds of Palestinians participating in “night confusion units” have lobbed improvised explosives and set tires alight, rolled them toward Israeli soldiers stationed along the border.

Addressing defense officials on Monday night, IDF chief Aviv Kochavi insisted that the border riots would not be tolerated by Israel.

“Calm and security will allow an improvement in civil conditions, but rioting and terror will lead to a strong response or operation,” he said.

“We have improved our attack capability in the Gaza Strip and our operational plans, and if quiet isn’t preserved in the south, we won’t hesitate to embark on another campaign. The reality of [Gazans’] lives can be completely different and significantly improved — but that will not be the case as long as terrorist acts of any kind continue.”

However, on Monday and Tuesday, some 30 truckloads of cement, 120 trucks of gravel and 15 trucks of steel entered Gaza, according to Bassam Ghabin, director of the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom crossing. An anonymous Israeli security official confirmed the shipments, which he said had been approved under previously announced government decisions.

Religious Zionist Party chairman MK Bezalel Smotrich slammed the decision to allow building materials to enter the Strip, saying:

“It pays to kill a soldier, shoot at Sderot in the afternoon, fire incendiary balloons and send the nightly harassment brigades. By these means, Hamas obtained cement and iron from [Prime Minister Naftali] Bennett to rehabilitate its offensive tunnel network. Think about what the Bennett who was in the opposition would say about his current self.”