The Defense Ministry will be expanding the number of permits it issues to Gazans allowing them to work in Israel, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories announced on Thursday.
According to the announcement, after assessing the security situation, Defense Minister Benny Gantz decided to issue an additional 1,500 work permits – bringing the total number of Gazans permitted to work in Israel to 17,000 – for labor and trade.
The decision will go into effect next week, the announcement said, following the High Holy Days.
Eyeing quiet in Gaza, Israel has changed its policy over the past two months and aimed to steadily increase the number of Israeli work permits for its residents to 20,000, security situation permitting. This policy led by the Defense Ministry, which has included easing other restrictions on the Strip, has significantly improved living standards in the enclave and lowered its unemployment rate, defense officials said.
In August, one military source said that Israel's recent civil policy in the Strip gave Hamas incentive not to join the brief round of fighting between Islamic Jihad and Israel that month.
The decision to increase work permits, made before the fighting began and briefly put on hold during the conflict, has strengthened Gaza's economy and put pressure on Hamas not to take actions that would lead Israel to take measures against the Palestinian population, said the military source.
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Before the last year, Israel often imposed economic sanctions on Gaza residents in response to aggressive actions on the part of Hamas. These sanctions included closing the border crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip, preventing its workers from entering Israel, and reducing the size of its offshore fishing zone.
Defense officials say that in spite of the serious damage to the lives of civilians in Gaza, in practice these actions benefitted Hamas economically. For example, closing the Kerem Shalom crossing led to a major increase in goods entering Gaza from Egypt through the Rafah crossing.
The taxes paid by the importers and exporters operating through the Rafah crossing are transferred directly to Hamas, as opposed to those operating at the Kerem Shalom crossing – where taxes go to the Palestinian Authority. But, at the same time, the relatively expensive costs of shipping and handling at the Rafah crossing have caused the prices of basic goods in Gaza to rise, which has been severely detrimental to the lives of its residents.