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Israel eases restrictions on Gaza after days of angry protests at border fence

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Palestinians burn tires on August 30, 2021 during a protest along the border fence with Israel, east of Gaza City in the central Gaza Strip, demanding an end to Israel's blockade and the right of Palestinians to return to their lands. (Photo by AFP)

The Israeli regime says it will ease some of its restrictions on the Gaza Strip, following days of protests by Gazans at the border fence separating Gaza from the Israeli-occupied territories over the regime’s inhumane blockade of the coastal enclave.

“Following a security assessment and approved by the political echelon, it has been decided to expand the fishing zone in the Gaza Strip to 15 nautical miles, as well as to completely open the Kerem Shalom Crossing, for the passage of equipment and goods,” COGAT, the Israeli military body responsible for civilian affairs in the occupied territories, said in a statement on Wednesday morning.

“In addition, the water supply to the Gaza Strip will be increased by additional 5 million cubic meters,” it said, adding that the number of Gazan merchants with permits to pass through the Erez crossing would be increased from 2,000 to 7,000.

Fishermen unload their catch at the seaport of Gaza City, after Israel expanded fishing zone for Palestinians April 2, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)

Gazans began organizing protests last week, demanding that the border crossings be reopened to facilitate the entry of goods and humanitarian aid.

The resistance groups in Gaza asserted that the protests would continue until the Israeli regime lifts its siege.

COGAT said that its measures were “conditional upon the continued preservation of the region’s security stability for the long term.”

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli siege since 2007 when Palestinian resistance movement Hamas took control of the enclave.

Tensions have spiked along the fence in recent weeks over the regime’s tight blockade, including deliberate hampering of efforts to reconstruct the strip following its latest war on Gaza.

Back in May, the Israeli military bombarded the besieged Gaza Strip for 11 consecutive days, killing at least 260 Palestinians, including 66 children.

Israel had closed both Kerem Shalom and the fishing zone during the war and had not restored them.

It had also attempted to link the entry of reconstruction material with the release of the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in the 2014 war and the return of two Israelis there.

Israel to lend PA $150m after Abbas-Gantz meeting

Meanwhile, Israel has agreed to lend the Palestinian Authority a sum of over $150m after a meeting between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli minister of military affairs Benny Gantz on Sunday.

Under the agreement, the Israeli regime would pay the PA 500 million shekels ($155m) as a loan which the Palestinian Authority has to repay in 2022 from the future tax revenue collected by Israel.

Israeli collects nearly $175m of PA tax duties monthly in return for a three percent monthly commission.

However, it is currently freezing $180m of PA tax duties it collected in 2020.

Israel has frozen PA tax revenue several times in the past 30 years.

The meeting between Abbas and Gantz marked the highest-level meeting held between the two sides in over a decade.

It came days after Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with US President Joe Biden at the White House, where Biden underscored the importance of refraining from actions that could exacerbate tensions.

Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad resistance movements strongly condemned the Sunday meeting, describing it as a “stab in the back” of the Palestinian nation and their cause.

Hamas said Abbas was “encouraging Arab countries to normalize with Israel” by meeting the senior Israeli official, noting, “This weakens the Palestinian stance that rejects normalization.”

“The blood of the children killed by the occupation army on the orders of Gantz is still on the ground and has not dried up yet,” the Islamic Jihad movement said.


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