Israel's latest 'collective punishment' policy targets Gaza's workers
Israel continued to seal off the northern border of Erez, a crossing in Gaza, in a policy described as a form of "collective punishment" that has significantly impacted Palestinian workers in the coastal enclave
Early on Monday, 18 September, Israeli authorities announced that they would close the northern border of Erez and continue to deny workers from Gaza from being able to head to their jobs in Israeli cities.
Israel claimed that its decision came after Palestinian demonstrations took place in various areas of the eastern borders between Gaza and Israel.
"The ban of Gaza workers from reaching their jobs will last for 24 hours, and we will decide if the border will be opened soon based on the security evaluation in Gaza," Ghassan Alyan, Ghassan Alyan, coordinator of Israeli government activities in the Palestinian territories, said in a press statement.
Recently, the besieged coastal enclave of the Gaza Strip has been witnessing escalation between the Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers stationed in the easter parts of the fence separating Gaza from the occupied territories.
During the demonstrations, Israeli soldiers often open live fire, as well as use rubber bullets and tear gas canisters. Dozens of protesters, journalists and medical personnel have been wounded or even killed in the past.
"I did not imagine that such escalation would encourage Israel to let us pay the price of the political issues in Gaza," Mohammed, a Palestinian worker from Gaza, said to The New Arab. "Israel deliberately uses us as a tool to pressure the Palestinian resistance in Gaza to force it to implement all of Israel's orders."
"We know very well that neither our Israeli employers nor the Israeli businessmen would accept such illegal measures issued by the radical Israeli government," the 39-year-old father of seven added.
He expressed fears about Israel extending the ban, saying, "I had suffered a lot for many years from poverty when I was unemployed. But now, I can keep my family afloat. I cannot imagine that I would return to poverty once again."
According to official Palestinian and Israeli statistics, about 18,000 Palestinian workers from Gaza work in various Israeli cities, of whom 9,000 exit daily through the Erez crossing.
The head of the General Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions in the Gaza Strip, Sami Al-Amsi, said to TNA that "[Israel] is using the workers' permit file as political and economic blackmail and is linking the security situation with the Gaza Strip."
"Since last year, Israel has been using worker permits as a political and economic card to pressure Gaza, seeking to achieving political gains at the expense of the segment of workers who go in search of their daily bread after years of unemployment as a result of the Israeli siege on the Strip," Al-Amsi added.
He considered the closure of the Beit Hanoun Erez checkpoint for 24 hours due to the ongoing events in eastern Gaza as a form of "collective punishment" on around 18,500 innocent families of workers.
Al-Amsi called on the mediators to pressure the occupation to fulfill its obligations under international law and raise the number of workers to 30,000 workers, in addition to lifting the "illegal" siege on Gaza.