Israel announced Friday that it will allow 1,000 Palestinian merchants and 350 senior businesspeople from Gaza to enter Israel starting Sunday, all of whom had been barred from entering the country since March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic first erupted in Israel.
Coordinator of Government Operations in the Occupied Territories, Major General Rassan Aliyan, decided to renew the entry of the merchants and businesspeople in light of the relative calm and stability in the Gaza Strip in recent days. Entry permits will be issued only for those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or have recovered from the virus.
In addition, Aliyan said exports from Gaza into Israel will be renewed through the Kerem Shalom Crossing and that Israel will expand its exports to the enclave.
Equipment and goods for humanitarian relief will also be allowed into Gaza. The decision, Aliyan said in a statement, "is conditional on preserving the stability in the region."
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In May, when hostilities broke out between Hamas and Israel, Defense Minister Benny Gantz banned the import of raw materials, construction materials, and "non-humanitarian" goods into the Strip, which severely damaged its water and sewage infrastructure. Due to the ban, most of the damage to these systems caused last May has not been repaired – essential maintenance cannot be performed, the desalination and water purification facilities are only partially operational, and all development and expansion projects have been discontinued.
Two weeks ago, Israel expanded Gaza's fishing zone and allowed the import of agriculture, food and electric goods into the Strip for the first time since then.
"After an assessment of the security situation and with the approval of the political echelon, it was decided tomorrow to expand the fishing area in the Strip from six to 12 nautical miles," a statement from COGAT read.