Israel approves 10,000 work permits for Gazans

What happened: Israel has increased the number of work permits for Gazans who can travel into Israel as a gesture for the continued quiet along the border.

  • The Israel Defense Forces’ unit responsible for the Palestinian territories, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), said an additional 3,000 Gazans will be allowed into Israel to work per day, bringing the total of recently announced permits to 10,000 – the highest number since Hamas took over Gaza in 2007.
  • In a similar move, COGAT legalised the residential status of 4,000 Palestinians in the West Bank on Tuesday.
  • The decision to increase the work permits was made by the cabinet following a security assessment, COGAT said.
  • The Shin Bet security service, which in the past had reservations about granting more permits, agreed to the recent decision. The agency will conduct background checks before each specific permit is given.
  • This morning Israel reached agreement with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails to end their hunger strike. The 250 prisoners, mostly affiliated to Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), began their hunger strike nine days ago in protest of restrictions imposed on them following the escape of six prisoners from Gilboa Prison last month.
  • Tensions around the prisoners had increased during the week. On Thursday, PIJ threatened to expand the hunger strike to include all 400 of its prisoners in Israel if the demands of the inmates are not met.
  • The previous day, the IDF closed areas around the Gaza Strip after Israel received intelligence warnings about the PIJ’s intention to act along the border.

Context: In recent months, Israel has loosened restrictions on goods and materials entering from the Gaza Strip and has expanded Gaza’s fishing zone.

  • The latest move comes as Israel and Hamas continue indirect negotiations to stabilise the fragile ceasefire between the two sides reached after an 11-day escalation in May.
  • Reports in Egyptian media claim that Qatar and Hamas have resolved the issue of funding Hamas officials’ salaries. Qatar will send $10m to Egypt, who will transfer fuel of this amount to Hamas. The fuel will be sold to the public and with this income Hamas will finance the salaries of its officers.
  • Israel was not a party to this arrangement but was updated and gave its consent. The new solution was required after the Israeli government decided to end its approval to allow cash payments to be delivered to Hamas for paying its officers.
  • Over the last few weeks, senior Hamas leadership has been in Egypt to negotiate a longer ceasefire with Israel.
  • However, talks have stalled over the details of a prisoner exchange – Hamas is demanding hundreds of Palestinians be released, in return for two living Israelis and the bodies of two dead soldiers.
  • In the summer Israel increased the number of extra work permits for Palestinians in the West Bank by 16,000, bringing the total number of Palestinians eligible to work in Israel to 122,000.
  • In September Minister Yair Lapid presented a long-term plan aimed at advancing economic prosperity, security and stability for the Gaza Strip.
  • In the first stage Israel will facilitate the rebuilding of Gaza’s electricity, water, health care, housing and transport in exchange for a coordinated effort against Hamas’s military build-up.
  • The second stage will include construction of a port and a transportation link between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Looking ahead: The IDF said the increase of work permits is “conditional upon the continued preservation of the region’s security stability for the long term”.

  • Israel is unlikely to agree to any long-term ceasefire and reconstruction of the Gaza Strip until the prisoner exchange issue is resolved.
  • On Wednesday, a senior Hamas official told Sky News that another war with Israel is inevitable unless the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is resolved.

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