Closure Eased in West Bank, Gaza
Sep. 15, 1998
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel eased its closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip slightly today, allowing 7,000 Palestinian workers and 3,000 business people to enter Israel.
However, Israel's borders will remain sealed to most of the more than 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, including tens of thousands of workers with jobs in Israel.
The closure was imposed last Thursday to prevent possible attacks by the Islamic militant group Hamas in Israel. Hamas has threatened to avenge the deaths of two top fugitives who were killed by Israeli troops last week. Since 1994, Hamas has killed scores of Israelis in suicide bombings.
Trucks can now enter Israel from Palestinian areas again, but they are subjected to long delays due to security checks.
The 7,000 workers permitted to return to their jobs today are part of a new Israeli program to let certain Palestinian employees continue entering Israeli even during security alerts.
The workers must be aged 28 or over and married and must have worked in Israel for at least two years. Their employers must be able to transport them to and from the border checkpoints, and to accommodate them overnight near the work site should the need arise.
The closures cause great economic hardship in the Palestinian areas, where unemployment is high. It also harms Israeli employers who are dependent on Palestinian labor.