After rocket fire in Gaza, Israel suspends action to allow entry of 1,500 additional workers

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Israel said on Saturday it was freezing a planned extension of work permits for Palestinians in Gaza by 1,500 (for a total of 15,500), after terrorists in the coastal enclave launched four rockets at southern Israel. Israel at night.

Israel’s Military Liaison to the Palestinians, widely known by its acronym COGAT, announced the additional 1,500 permits on Tuesday, part of a series of moves ahead of US President Joe Biden’s visit to the region.

But following rocket attacks in the predawn hours on Saturday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz decided to freeze the move, COGAT said in a statement.

The announcement came following a new security assessment conducted by Gantz and senior defense officials, including military chief Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, and military liaison with the Palestinians, Major General Ghassan Alian. .

“The Hamas terror group bears responsibility for everything that is done and emanates from the Gaza Strip towards the State of Israel, and it will bear the consequences,” the statement said.

None of the Gaza-based terror groups claimed responsibility for Saturday’s rocket attacks.

In the first rocket attack, two rockets were launched from the Strip at the coastal city of Ashkelon. One was intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system and the second landed in an open area, causing no damage.

In response, the Israel Defense Forces said it was targeting an underground Hamas facility used for the production of rocket materials in the central Gaza Strip.

Simultaneously, two more rockets were fired at Israel and warning sirens were activated in the Lakhish Regional Council in the northeast of the Strip. Both rockets hit open areas, according to the IDF.

In response to the additional rocket fire, the army struck another Hamas site, which it said was being used as a weapons production facility.

The IDF said the first site was “one of the largest and most important sites in the Strip for the production of basic materials for rockets by terrorist groups”, saying the attack would significantly delay the manufacture of rockets. rockets.

The attack was particularly large, according to an unsourced Channel 12 report, which said Hamas does not currently have a large number of operational rocket production sites and that those that are operational are under pressure. because of Hamas’s difficulty in getting heavy machinery into Gaza and its reliance on independent production.

The report adds that the decision to carry out the strikes on the facility was made knowing that the price could be a significant escalation, with the rocket attacks seen as an opportunity to decommission the facility.

However, security officials believed the attack would not lead to an escalation and Hamas indicated it was not interested in escalating the situation further, according to Channel 12 news.

The rocket fire came hours after Biden left the country and soon after the US leader announced a deal that included moves from Riyadh to benefit Israel.

The deal will see the transfer of a pair of Red Sea islands from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, and Riyadh allowing Israeli airlines to fly over its territory en route to the Far East. The Saudis are also expected to allow direct flights from Israel for Muslim pilgrims.

In 2020, Gaza’s ruling Hamas launched a 13-rocket salvo southward as Israel signed peace agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Biden left Israel earlier Friday, after a two-day trip that included meetings with Israeli leaders and a visit to East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

US President Joe Biden arrives at King Abdulaziz International Airport, Friday, July 15, 2022, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Last month, Israel froze a decision to add 2,000 work permits to the quota following a rocket attack on the south. The move was released four days later.

The Ministry of Defense has approved a tentative plan to eventually increase the number of permits in Gaza to 20,000, a dramatic and unprecedented increase. As of mid-2021, only 7,000 Palestinians in Gaza had work or business permits in Israel.

Defense officials say allowing more Gazans to work in Israel will inject much-needed revenue into the impoverished coastal enclave while encouraging stability.

The Gaza Strip has been blockaded by Israel and Egypt for more than 15 years in an effort to contain the enclave’s Hamas leaders. Israel says the tight restrictions on goods and people are necessary because of the terror group’s efforts to massively arm itself for attacks on the Jewish state.

Critics lament the blockade’s impact on ordinary Gazans, about 50 percent of whom are unemployed, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Exorbitant poverty rates make employment in Israel a very attractive option for those lucky enough to receive permits.

In Gaza, Palestinian workers can expect an average daily wage of around 60 shekels ($17.35). The few people allowed to enter Israel for work could earn up to NIS 400 ($115.66) a day, according to a report by Times of Israel partner site Zman Yisrael.

Tobias Siegal contributed to this report.

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