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Israel relaxes permit restrictions for elderly Palestinians

March 12, 2015 10:59 P.M. (Updated: March 13, 2015 8:13 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- An Israeli official said Thursday that permit restrictions for West Bank Palestinians wishing to enter Israel will be relaxed beginning Sunday.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Yoav Mordechai, said in a statement that as of Sunday, men over the age of 55 and women over the age of 50 will be allowed to cross into Israel for daily visits without the need for permits.

As part of Israel's nearly 50-year-old military occupation of the West Bank, Palestinians are subject to a complex system of movement permits and are prevented from moving freely between different areas of the West Bank as well as into Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The announcement signals a minor relaxing of the policy primarily for elderly Palestinians, though Mordechai said that work permit regulations would also be slightly relaxed.

Mordechai said in the statement that married men over the age of 22 will be eligible to apply for work permits starting Sunday, in contrast to current regulations that only allow married men over 24 who have children to apply.

Israel allows about 30,000 Palestinians from the West Bank to work inside Israel, but these permits are easily revocable and are subject to major restrictions on both movements and rights.

The numbers are also a far cry from the 1990s, when thousands more worked inside Israel. Because Israel maintains almost complete control over the Palestinian economy, the decrease in numbers allowed to work inside Israel have led to widespread unemployment and high levels of emigration.

In the Gaza Strip, meanwhile, Mordechai said in the statement that Israel had allowed 88,000 tons of construction materials to enter. He said that the material had reached 57,000 Gazans.

Israel also approved 47 projects in the Gaza Strip funded by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and European countries, he said.

He said that the lack of fuel in Gaza was an issue of "funding," adding that Israel was not responsible.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade since 2006 that limits almost all imports and exports.

Israel's summer offensive left more than 100,000 Palestinians homeless in addition to the 2,200 killed.

Palestinians have complained that Israel has largely refused to allow construction material to enter Gaza to allow those left homeless to rebuild their homes.
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