6,000 Palestinians Enter Israel to Work
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6,000 Palestinians Enter Israel to Work
Sun Nov 2, 9:30 AM ET
By IBRAHIM BARZAK, Associated Press Writer
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - More than 6,000 Palestinian
laborers crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip on
Sunday as Israel slightly eased restrictions that had
prevented them from reaching their workplaces for more
than a month, Palestinian officials said.
The Palestinian workers crammed through the Erez
crossing before dawn, submitting to tight security
checks but thankful to return to their jobs. All the
permits were given to men 35 and older, because Israel
says married men over this age are less likely to
carry out attacks.
Also Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
traveled to Moscow, where he is expected to talk with
President Vladimir Putin about Israel's concerns over
Iran's nuclear program and a Russian-backed U.N.
resolution on a Mideast peace plan.
Iran has pledged to open its nuclear program to
unfettered inspections and to suspend uranium
enrichment. But Israeli officials fear Iran is
continuing to covertly acquire nuclear arms know-how,
at least some of it from countries of the former
Soviet Union, possibly including Russia.
Israeli officials said they would also discuss
Russia's introduction last week of a resolution asking
the U.N. Security Council to endorse the "road map"
Mideast peace plan, over opposition from the United
States and Israel.
A senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of
anonymity, told The Associated Press that Israel
considered the United Nations a hostile forum and
deepening its involvement would hinder, rather than
help, peace efforts.
The slight easing of the restrictions on Palestinians
came after Israel's army chief of staff, Lt. Gen.
Moshe Yaalon, criticized the continuing closures and
said they were stirring Palestinian hatred and
increasing support for suicide bombings.
Strict closures were placed on Palestinians in the
West Bank and Gaza before the Jewish New Year holiday
in September because of increased concerns about
attacks. The restrictions, which had been extended
through a series of Jewish holidays � and the Oct. 4
suicide bombing of a Haifa restaurant that killed 21 �
prevented nearly 3 million Palestinians from traveling
to Israel and leaving their communities. Many
Palestinian farmers could not reach their fields,
badly damaging the annual olive harvest.
Israel's government says the restrictions are
necessary to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers and
other attackers from reaching Israeli targets.
Before fighting erupted three years ago, more than
50,000 Palestinians from Gaza and 100,000 from the
West Bank worked in Israel. That number has been
greatly restricted since then and commerce between
Palestinian towns has also been curtailed. The
restrictions have further damaged the already crippled
Palestinian economy, pushing thousands of Palestinian
families into poverty.
Israel began slightly easing restrictions on the
Palestinians Thursday, an army spokesman said, when it
allowed some 4,500 West Bank laborers and merchants to
go to work in Israel. In addition, Israel allowed
public transportation between West Bank towns and
cities to resume, the spokesman said.
In Gaza on Sunday, about 10,000 permits were handed
out. But only 6,200 people crossed the border because
of permit problems and personal issues, according to
Palestinian border officials. Most of those that
crossed work in the nearby Erez industrial zone.
For most Palestinians who are celebrating the
monthlong holiday of Ramadan, fasting from dawn to
dusk and then holding lavish feasts, the timing could
not have been better.
"It is a miracle from God because I was running out of
money due to the holy month of Ramadan and I was
thinking how I would manage to feed my children in
this very bad economic situation," said Mohammed
Salman, a 42-year-old construction worker who has
However, Salman was unhappy with the security checks,
which make a trip from his home in the Jabalya refugee
camp to Tel Aviv take several hours instead of less
than an hour.
"This step is not enough because they are treating us
like animals at the borders. They are humiliating us.
We want real free movement and we want good living
conditions and peace for all of us," Salman said.
Col. Salim Abu Safiya, director of the Palestinian
Border Authority, said Israel had also promised to
improve conditions at Gaza's Karni industrial
crossing, which has been operating at partial capacity
Israeli officials also said they would allow Gazans
over the age of 50 to travel on Friday to pray at the
Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in honor of Ramadan, Abu
Safiya said. Final arrangements for this have not been
made and it is unclear how many Gazans will attend the
prayer services, he said.
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