Thousands of Gazans rush to apply for Israeli work permits

Thousands of Palestinians in Gaza apply for work in Israel after years-long ban 'lifted'
4 min read
08 October, 2021
For the first time since Hamas' takeover of Gaza in 2007, Israel could be about to provide work permits for residents of the besieged territory.
Thousands of Palestinians gathered in front of the headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce. [Getty Images]

Thousands of Palestinians gathered in front of the headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce in Gaza on Wednesday to apply for Israeli work permits, after reports that a years-long ban on the permits is to be lifted.

The applicants, who included unemployed workers, graduates, and elderly people, held their personal documents to register their names and apply to enter Israel for work. 

A total of 7,000 permits will be granted to Palestinian labourers, an Israeli security official told AFP, up from 5,000 workers and traders allowed in August.

Israel is only accepting applications from those between the ages of 26 and 58, according to an official at the Chamber of Commerce.

"In addition, they must be vaccinated against Covid-19, and they should not be aligned with neither Hamas-run Gaza government nor the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority," the official, who preferred not to be named, told The New Arab.

The official added that they were surprised by the Israeli announcement and are working around the clock to receive the highest number of permits.

But he said there is no guarantee that Israel will keep its promise to allow Palestinians from Gaza to work inside its cities.

It is the first time since Hamas' takeover of Gaza in 2007 that Israel has announced that it is ready to provide work permits for the Palestinians, many of whom are willing to enter it as workers. 

In the past, about 120,000 Palestinians were working inside the Israeli cities in various fields, including agriculture, building and as automobile mechanics.

'Years of poverty'

Mohammed Murtaja, a 50-year-old man from the Gaza City, is one of those who has been working inside Israel for many years. Once he heard the news, he rushed to register his name in the hopes that he would be given the permission once again.

The father-of-seven told TNA that he was a professional farmer, who used to work on many Israeli farms, where he was getting about $100 a day. 

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"At that time, all the workers, including myself, were making good money," the man recalled, saying that the situation has completely changed when Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza following the Hamas takeover.

"Unfortunately," he says, "we became the main victims of the complicated political situation and the ongoing Gaza-Israel conflicts."

"I am here to have my right once again. I need to go back to work to keep my 12-member family afloat after many years of suffering from poverty," he said.

Mohammed al-Absy, a 35-year-old young man from Rafah City in the coastal enclave's south, also applied for Israeli work permits. 

Al-Absy has failed to find any job opportunity in his field since he graduated from university in 2008 after studying business administration.

He told TNA that he has four children, but he cannot provide them with basic needs.

"It is my biggest wish to have a job inside Israel as they would pay a lot of money for us a day," he said.

Inside the Gaza Strip, his chances are slim and even if he does get a job, it will not suffice to keep his family afloat, as he said.

Negotiations

The Israeli decision to reopen applications for workers comes as Hamas leaders in Egypt are negotiating a possible long-term ceasefire agreement with Israel. 

An official Palestinian source close to Hamas told TNA that it would be the first time Hamas would be able to reach a full political and economic understanding with Israel.

"Based on the ongoing negotiations with the Egyptian brothers, the Gaza Strip will witness significant and tangible facilities, whether it is in the work of the crossings or the movement of people through them and even the entry of commercial materials, as well as the return of workers to Israeli cities," the source said.

On Sunday, a Hamas delegation headed by political chief Ismail Haniyeh and the leader of the movement in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, arrived in Cairo to hold a series of talks with senior Egyptian security intelligence officials.

According to Hamas, the delegation discussed issues related to ending the Israeli blockade, accelerating the reconstruction plan and reaching a prisoner exchange deal with Israel.

On May 21, Egypt brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas-led militants in the Gaza Strip, which ended 11 days of fighting that left more than 250 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead. 

For his part, Moen Rajab, a Gaza-based economist, told TNA that the increase in the number of Palestinian workers entering Israel will significantly solve the economic problems of tens of thousands of Palestinian families suffering from poverty.

In addition, the cash they would get from their work would be pumped into the local markets, which would boost Gaza's economy.