Israel relaxes entry criteria for West Bank Palestinians

Published March 16th, 2015 - 07:09 GMT

Palestinian men over the age of 55 and women over the age of 50 will no longer need a permit to enter Israel from the West Bank, the IDF has declared. Previously, since October, men up to the age of 60 required a permit to enter Israel.

Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, announced a series of Israeli measures intended to ease the lives of Palestinians both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Starting Sunday, Palestinian laborers can apply to enter Israel as long as they are married and over the age of 22. Previously, only married laborers over the age of 24 and with children were given entry permits by Israel.

Since October, the IDF has been easing measures in the West Bank in an attempt to improve the quality of life for Palestinians. At the time, men over 60 were allowed into Israel without a permit.

The new measures in the West Bank complemented Israel’s easing of the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip eight years ago, as agricultural produce from Gaza was allowed to enter Israel last week for the first time since Hamas’ violent takeover in June 2007. The impetus for the move, Israel explained, was the shmita year, during which Jewish agriculture is traditionally restricted.

For the first time in eight years, we have allowed agricultural products to enter the Israeli markets from Gaza,” Mordechai told Ma’an news agency on Thursday. Since the summer, Israel has also allowed 88,000 tons of building materials to enter Gaza, permitting 57,000 Gaza residents to rebuild their homes destroyed in Operation Protective Edge, he added.

According to Israeli watchdog Gisha, which deals with freedom of movement in Gaza, Israel and the West Bank accounted for 85% of Gaza’s export market prior to 2007. In November 2014, Israel allowed agricultural produce as well as fish and seafood from Gaza to be marketed in the West Bank.

“Gisha welcomes these steps to allow access to the Israeli market for Gaza farmers,” the organization wrote in a press statement, “but cautions that much more needs to be done to ensure the real recovery of Gaza’s economy, which remains a shared goal for all residents of the region.”

By Elhanan Miller


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