In the interest of their safety, Israel will reduce the number of Israeli Arabs who are allowed to enter Gaza, it was announced Thursday.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Major General Yoav Mordechai, recommended the move in view of the prevailing security situation in the coastal enclave.
The head of the IDF’s Southern Command, Major General Sami Turgeman, conducted an assessment of the security situation and accepted Mordechai’s recommendation, which will be reviewed periodically.
According to the decision, individual cases will be examined in accordance with security considerations and humanitarian reasons.
In light of recent incidents, the suspicion has arisen that the Hamas terrorist organization would take advantage of Israeli Arabs who come to visit their families in Gaza. This has become more of a concern in light of the information that was recently cleared for publication about the two Israelis being held by Hamas in Gaza – 26-year-old Avraham Mengistu and an Israeli Arab of Bedouin origin whose details have not been cleared for publication.
Israeli Arabs are typically given permits to enter Gaza in order to visit immediate family members or for funerals, weddings and uniting with partners and children.
According to data from the first half 2015, 762 Israeli Arabs were given permits to enter Gaza, mainly for the purpose of visiting sick relatives and family reunification.
The decision comes amid continued uncertainty over the fate of the two missing Israelis. Hamas originally claimed it wasn't holding Mengistu but rather had released him to civilian life in Gaza. Later, senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk claimed that Mengistu did not enter Gaza last September due to mental illness, but rather was captured as a soldier participating in last summer's war.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon has stated that no terrorist prisoner swap deals would be made for Mengistu or the Bedouin Israeli.