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Israel to allow Palestinian Jerusalemites to enter Gaza in effort to 'encourage investment'

Aug. 8, 2017 11:28 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 8, 2017 9:51 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities announced on Monday that they would begin allowing certain Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem to visit the besieged Gaza Strip.

A spokesperson for COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, said in a statement on Monday that as of Aug. 7, residents of East Jerusalem would be able to visit the Gaza Strip with special Israeli permission.

The statement highlighted that "businessmen and others who want to help improve economy, infrastructures, and humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip will be allowed to visit Gaza."

No more than 150 people will be allowed to pass at a time, the statement said, adding that applications should be submitted to COGAT's offices in charge of affairs in the Gaza Strip.

A COGAT spokesperson told Ma’an that the measure is intended to “encourage businesspeople to invest in Gaza.”

While the policy seemingly marked a slight ease in strict Israeli policies that control who enters and leaves the besieged coastal enclave, the new measures would still require that Israeli authorities evaluate whoever has the intention of “wanting to help” improve Gaza’s economy and humanitarian situation.

The Gaza Strip has been under a crippling Israeli land, air, and sea blockade for 10 years, while three Israeli offensives since 2008 have caused extensive damage to Gaza’s water, sanitation, energy, and medical infrastructure, and destroyed thousands of homes.

Israel has also maintained stringent restrictions on goods allowed inside Gaza as part of its blockade, arguing that construction material such as cement could be used by Hamas and other Palestinian resistance groups for military purposes.

As of August 2016, some 50 percent of the buildings that were completely destroyed during the devastating 2014 war were still awaiting reconstruction, while an April 2016 UN report estimated that 75,000 Palestinians were still homeless nearly two years after the latest war.

Last month, United Nations Coordinator for humanitarian aid and development activities in the occupied Palestinian territory Robert Piper told Ma’an that the international community needed “to move fast” to stave off an already dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza, five years after the UN warned that the small Palestinian territory would be “unlivable” by 2020.

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