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Israel To Open Erez Crossing With Gaza, as Economic Losses Pile Up
A Palestinian police officer stands guard on the Palestinian Authority side of the Erez Crossing in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, on April 23, 2022, after Israel announced it would close the crossing to Palestinian workers due to overnight rocket fire from the coastal strip. (Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images)

Israel To Open Erez Crossing With Gaza, as Economic Losses Pile Up

Israel’s restrictive measures against Gaza could trigger a military escalation and exacerbate the Strip’s economic crisis

(Gaza) Israel will reopen the Erez Crossing with Gaza on Tuesday, two days after the pedestrian crossing was closed following a security assessment held on Saturday night. The crossing in northern Gaza, also known as Beit Hanoun, had been closed since Thursday due to the Passover holiday.

The decision to keep the crossing closed came after rockets were fired from Gaza at southern Israel on Friday night. The closure imposes a crippling economic sanction on the coastal enclave by preventing thousands of Palestinian workers in Gaza from traveling to their jobs in Israel.

Palestinian factions say these rockets were fired toward Israeli border communities in response to what they say are Israel’s “human rights violations in east Jerusalem and the repeated Israeli arrest campaigns in the occupied West Bank” during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Around 12,000 Gazans work in Israel and earn a total of 5 million shekels per day.

Keeping the crossing open would have constituted a qualitative leap in breaking the current state of economic deterioration and stagnation that has continued for more than 15 years due to the Israeli blockade, according to Gaza-based economist Mazen Alijla.

“These revenues, which were supposed to enter Gaza through the workers, would have greatly alleviated the economic, social and living crises suffered by the Gaza residents,” he told The Media Line.

The crossing was closed for two extra days due to the rocket fire from Gaza, and it is possible that, if more rockets are fired in the run-up to the end of Ramadan, Israel could again close it.

Israel previously announced that it would increase the number of workers from Gaza allowed to enter the country. Under this scenario, the Strip was expected to witness a significant decrease in poverty and high unemployment rates by the end of the year, according to Alijla, but “unfortunately, the new situation will prevent this goal from being achieved, because the longer the closure lasts, the greater the heavy losses for the Gaza Strip,” he said.

Alijla believes that, despite the relatively large number of Gaza workers holding permits to work in Israel – 12,000 workers so far, no significant improvement has been made to the Strip’s economic situation over the past few months.

The economist suggests that this is “mainly because they are newly recruited workers who are crippled by their debt overhangs and have priorities to meet their families’ basic needs, especially after nearly 16 years of a tightened blockade which drained people’s energy and resilience.”

Israel believes that the political response, by closing crossings, is more effective than the military option in deterring the rockets launched from Gaza, as it puts more economic pressure on Hamas and the Gazan people

Abu Ihab is a Gazan father of six children and a worker who was supposed to enter Israel on Sunday. But he was not lucky enough to make it across the border after the closure of the Erez Crossing.

“I only worked there for 40 days. This is not enough to even pay off the debts I have accumulated, including those I took to pay the costs of applying for a merchant permit,” he told The Media Line.

Another Gazan worker, who declined to give his name for fear of being denied a permit to work in Israel, told The Media Line prior to the announcement that the crossing would reopen that: “I used to work in a small bakery in central Gaza for 20 shekels a day, but once I received my work permit, I left my old job and went to work in Israel for 350 shekels daily. The good dream didn’t last for long. Now I’m starting all over in hope of finding another job here in Gaza to feed my babies. It’s literally a nightmare for me.”

The situation between Gaza and Israel is extremely critical and, according to statements of the Palestinian factions, could relapse into another violent fight between the two sides.

Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem accused Israel of inciting tensions and ignoring international laws by applying “collective punishment” measures against Gaza residents.

He told The Media Line that “the Israeli occupation’s decision to close the crossing is one form of aggression that would definitely heat up the already tense situation originally caused by the Israeli assault on Palestinian sacred places. These provocative acts will fuel confrontation between Gaza and Israel again.”

The Islamic Jihad movement has taken the same position.

“Obviously, Israel is trying to blackmail the Gazan people and take advantage of their difficult living conditions in order to dissuade them from protecting their sacred places and showing solidarity with their people in Jerusalem and the West Bank,” Dawoud Shehab, a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad official, told The Media Line, adding that: “Resisting occupation is a legitimate right for Palestinians who will not remain silent in the face of Israeli injustice and oppression.”

Shehab warned that the possibility of heading into a new round of fighting is mounting as more Israeli punitive measures are taken against the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, local media outlets reported on Sunday that Israeli authorities informed the relevant Palestinian bodies that the entry of mail into the Gaza Strip will not take place until Wednesday, instead of daily, if the security situation remained unstable.

Despite threatening statements and violent triggers, Gaza-based political analyst Mkhaimar Abusada suggests that neither Israel nor Hamas is interested in a military escalation.

“First, Israel believes that the political response, by closing crossings, is more effective than the military option in deterring the rockets launched from Gaza, as it puts more economic pressure on Hamas and the Gazan people,” he told The Media Line.

In addition, Abusada said, “neither of the Palestinian factions in Gaza claimed responsibility for the firing of rockets toward Israel. In fact, it’s important to notice that these rockets, launched only towards Israeli border areas, were of short range and limited effect. This indicates the Palestinian factions’ desire to avoid the escalation scenario.”

However, the chance of rolling toward a military confrontation with Israel remains high if Israel again closes the Erez Crossing, Abusada noted.

“If the Erez Crossing remains shut for a long period of time, a week max, I believe we will be facing serious military unrest in the region,” he concluded.

 

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