July 15, 2024

Border opened after weeks of demonstrations by Palestinian workers through an informal agreement Qatar helped mediate, Gaza envoy says.

Qatar says it successfully mediated an agreement between Israel and officials in the Gaza Strip to reopen crossing points to the besieged territory after Palestinians were prevented from working and violence broke out.

The crossings were opened on Thursday after nearly two weeks of demonstrations by Palestinian workers through an informal agreement Qatar helped mediate alongside a flurry of diplomacy involving Egypt, Israel and Hamas.

“The situation in the Gaza Strip is dire and another conflict will only exacerbate the humanitarian crisis. Qatar has worked and succeeded in de-escalating the situation in the Gaza Strip by mediating an understanding to reopen the Erez crossing for Palestinian workers,” Qatar’s envoy to Gaza, Mohammad al-Emadi, was quoted by media as saying.

“Qatar will spare no efforts in supporting the Palestinian people through diplomacy and developmental initiatives until they achieve their aspirations for statehood and prosperity,” he added.

Israel shut the Beit Hanoun crossing – called “Erez” by Israel – with Gaza in advance of the Rosh Hashanah Jewish holiday.

For nearly two weeks, Israeli troops faced off against the protesting labourers, responding with live fire that killed at least one man and wounded dozens more.

‘Nightmare’

The reopening allows thousands of Palestinian workers to return to their jobs in Israel and the occupied West Bank.

About 18,000 Gazans have permits from Israeli authorities to work outside the blockaded enclave, providing an injection of cash amounting to some $2m a day to the impoverished territory’s economy.

Jobs in Israel are in high demand, paying up to 10 times as much as similar jobs in Gaza. Unemployment in the Palestinian territory – which has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since 2007 – hovers at 50 percent.

“We want to go to work and earn a living for our children because the situation was too bad for us the past two weeks,” said Khaled Zurub, 57, who works in construction in Israel.

The crossing closure was a “nightmare”, said Mohammad al-Kahlout, a labourer waiting to cross into Israel on Thursday. “It felt like someone was trying to suffocate you.”

Cogat, the Israeli defence ministry agency that coordinates with the Palestinians, said security assessments will determine whether the Gaza crossing point will remain open.

After the Erez crossing reopened, Palestinian protest organisers announced they would suspend the daily rallies, but promised to resume demonstrations if Israel did not adhere to its commitments.

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