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Israel to allow entry of Palestinian workers amid lockdown on occupied territory

Oct. 7, 2017 5:42 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 8, 2017 2:12 P.M.)
Palestinians walk through the Erez border crossing with Israel in the northern Gaza Strip as they cross into Gaza (AFP/Mahmud Hams, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli authorities have decided to allow for the limited entrance of Palestinian workers from the occupied West Bank into Israel amid a harsh 11-day general closure of the West Bank and besieged Gaza Gaza Strip for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an on Sunday that the workers "employed in required sectors of the economy" will be allowed to pass through military border crossings between the occupied West Bank and Israel.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the Israeli Army Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot came to the decision on Thursday, after the ministers first announced an unprecedented 11-day general closure for both the West Bank and Gaza -- during which only humanitarian, medical, and exceptional cases were to be allowed to exit or enter -- between Oct. 4 and Oct. 14.

Israel regularly imposes closures on the West Bank and Gaza for Jewish holidays, but week-long festivals like Sukkot usually only have closures imposed at the end of the holiday, lasting a few days.

The extended closure was reportedly approved by Lieberman as a result of a deadly shooting attack at an illegal Israeli settlement two weeks ago, committed by a Palestinian from the West Bank who had a permit to work in illegal settlements.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority Director of Border Crossings Nathmi Muhanna said that Israel's Erez crossing with Gaza will be open on Sunday until 7 p.m. Tuesday for those returning to Gaza from Israel, before being completely shut down for four days, official PA- owned Wafa news agency reported Saturday.

The crossing will then be reportedly be shut down from Wednesday Oct. 11 until Sunday Oct. 15 for travelers in both directions.

A spokesperson for COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible for implementing the Israeli government's policies in Gaza and the West Bank, was not immediately available to confirm the reported interruption in the previously announced 11-day closure.

Severe restrictions on movement for Palestinians are typically implemented by Israeli authorities during Jewish holidays for alleged security purposes, accompanied by increased tensions around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem.

Most recently, the Israeli army also closed off the West Bank and Gaza Strip for a week during the Passover holiday in April, last week for Yom Kippur holiday, and for Rosh Hashana last month.

Debilitating poverty and lack of employment drive many workers in the occupied West Bank to enter Israel in search of work. Israel's imposition of closures on the Palestinian territory has severely affected the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who depend on entering Israel, or its illegal settlements, for employment opportunities.

Meanwhile, the majority of the more than 2 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are sealed inside the coastal enclave due to a decade long military blockade imposed by Israel and upheld by Egypt on the southern border.

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