Israel sent thousands of Palestinians back to war-torn Gaza on Friday, as it pursued a crackdown on workers and labourers from the territory who had previously been given permits to take up jobs in Israel and the occupied West Bank.
Large numbers of workers returned through the Karem Abu Salem crossing, called Kerem Shalom by Israel, east of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, which has been pounded by Israeli jets and tanks for weeks since the October 7 war started.
“We used to serve them, work for them – in houses, in restaurants, and in markets – in return for the lowest wages, and despite that, we have now been humiliated,” said Jamal Ismail, a worker from the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza.
Israel previously issued more than 18,000 permits allowing Gaza Palestinians to cross into Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank to take jobs in sectors such as agriculture or construction.
However, the system has been scrapped, as Israel has reversed its previous policy of offering economic incentives for stability and instead mounted a combined air and ground offensive to eradicate Hamas, the Palestinian armed group that controls Gaza.
Commenting on footage showing men entering the Gaza Strip on foot, Miriam Marmur, advocacy director of Israeli non-profit group Gisha, told Al Jazeera that they could not confirm Palestinian media reports that said some 7,000 people had crossed into Gaza.
“We don’t know how many were being detained by Israel and how many people have been released into the strip but this appears to be the beginning of the implementation of [the Israeli cabinet’s] decision,” she said.
Workers crossing into the Palestinian enclave said they were detained and ill-treated by Israeli authorities in the wake of the October 7 attack.