Thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank entered Israel to work on Sunday after weeks of absence over fears of the coronavirus, as the pandemic’s spread slowed.
An Israeli security official said that as of the morning, some 11,500 Palestinians with permits had entered Israel and settler industrial zones for work in construction, agriculture and industry only.
A spokesman for the Palestinian labor ministry said that a total of 40,000 workers had permission to cross during the course of Sunday and Monday to work in Israel for one month, mostly in construction and agriculture.
The spokesman, Rami Mehdawi, said that by agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, employers must provide workers with sanitary accommodation and health insurance.
On March 25, Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh called on laborers in Israel to return to the West Bank as part of Palestinian efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus from the Jewish state.
By then Israel had 2,369 cases of the virus, compared to just 62 in the Palestinian territory, and the crossings were closed by agreement between both sides, forcing laborers who wished to continue working in Israel to remain there.
Around 40,000 workers chose to do so.
The latest decision to let laborers in was reached jointly with the Palestinians and aimed at ensuring “they would not lose their jobs and would be able to continue supporting their families,” an Israeli security official said.
Those entering would not be able to return to the West Bank until Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, in three weeks time.
The numbers of Israelis catching coronavirus has declined significantly, with the health ministry reporting on Sunday just 41 new cases in the past 24 hours, with 16,193 infected and 230 dead.
Some 120,000 Palestinians worked in Israel and Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank on a daily basis before the pandemic’s outbreak.