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6,000 Palestinians Enter Israel to Work

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    Yahoo! News 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
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 3, 2003
      Yahoo! News
      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
      seven children.

      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
      for weeks.

      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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