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Israel releases Gaza merchant after 10 months of detention

May 18, 2017 2:19 P.M. (Updated: May 18, 2017 4:54 P.M.)
GAZA (Ma’an) -- Israeli authorities released a Palestinian merchant on Wednesday after 10 months of detention after he was detained by Israeli forces at the Erez crossing between the besieged Gaza Strip and Israel, according to the Palestinian liaison.

The Palestinian liaison said that Israeli authorities released Ibrahim Abu Labad from the al-Zayton neighborhood in Gaza after detaining him 10 months ago at the Erez crossing. No further details were provided.

Erez is the only land crossing between Gaza and Israel, although travel is heavily restricted by Israeli authorities as part of a crippling blockade on the coastal enclave in place since 2007.

Palestinians detained at Erez are often interrogated for several hours, sometimes for days, before they are either allowed into Israel or sent back to Gaza.

According to the Israeli rights group Gisha, April this year represented the lowest number of exits from the Erez Crossing since the 2014 Israeli offensive on the besieged enclave. Last year, during the same time period, the number of exits recorded was three times higher than in April 2017, according to the group.

Gisha reported that April was similar to June 2014, when 4,503 exits from the crossing were recorded, and during the time of severe Israeli-imposed travel restrictions after three Israelis were kidnapped in the occupied West bank, which led to the 2014 offensive the following month.

The group said that the causes of the travel restrictions were due to the Jewish holiday of Passover and the heightened movement restrictions imposed by Hamas, the de facto leaders in Gaza, at the Hamas-run checkpoint that Palestinians in Gaza must cross before reaching Erez.

However, the numbers were “irregular and of concern,” Gisha reported, adding that the low exit numbers indicate the “gradual tightening of the closure and further reduction in the already limited options for Palestinian travel in and out of Gaza.”

“The inability to travel, particularly by merchants, translates into damage to the Palestinian economy, particularly in Gaza, and stands in opposition to statements made by senior Israeli officials since 2014 about the need for economic growth in the Strip,” the group said.

“Rather than finding ways to enable development by allowing Palestinians from Gaza to take advantage of opportunities to study, conduct business and expand trade and industry, Israel’s policy makes these options an increasing rarity.”
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