Interior Minister Ophir Pines signed Wednesday morning decrees turning the four passage points between the Gaza Strip and Israel into international border crossings.
The four crossings are as follows: Erez, Kerem Shalom, Sufa, and Karni. Following the move, officials now prepare to man entry and exit points, mostly in order to handle the thousands of Palestinians who go through the crossings on a daily basis on their way to Israel. Officials estimate the Israeli demand to enter Gaza will be low.
Officially, the Gaza crossings will be seen as any order border crossing, that is, those who wish to go through the passage point will need a valid passport or other appropriate travel documents. During Israel’s rule over Gaza, Palestinians needed special permits issued by the IDF.
However, once the military rule in Gaza officially ended, authority over the border crossings was transferred to the interior minister. Meanwhile, the Knesset Interior Committee will convene to discuss Pines’ request to cancel the need for passports for the time being and allow Palestinians to use permits for the next six months in order to enter Israel for work, medical treatments, or family visits.
The proposal aims to prevent a situation where Palestinians who do not possess a passport or other travel documents would not be able to enter Israel even though they have valid permits issued earlier.
But there will be no easing of criteria for Palestinians to enter Israel. Considerations will remain the same, and it will remain up to Civil Administration or IDF officials at border crossings to issue entry permits to Israel.
In any event, the Interior Ministry will not grant entry permits until the IDF withdraws from border crossings, and the border issue is solved once-and-for-all.
It should be noted that the above rules do not apply to Israelis wanting to visit Gaza, and Israelis will require passports to cross in and out of Gaza.
Egypt expelling Palestinians
Also Wednesday, Egyptian security officials told London-based Arabic newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat that police have started rounding up Gaza residents who crossed the porous border following Israel's withdrawal last week.
Palestinians swarm Rafah border (Photo: AFP)
The source also said special vehicles will be dispatched to collect the Palestinians and deposit them on the Palestinian side of the border. PA officials are expected to greet the returnees and will provide housing close to the border.
To date, some 1,500 Palestinians have been deported, and an additional 8,000 are still in el-Arish, Egyptian Rafah and other cities throughout Sinai.
Roee Nahmias contributed to the story