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Israel Studies Options to End Gaza Siege in Exchange of Halt in Rocket Attacks - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Ramallah – Israel is working on a new plan to expand the Beit Hanoun (Erez) border crossing with the Gaza Strip, which includes establishing a railroad track between Israel and the enclave.

The track would be the first of its kind should it be approved.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Tel Aviv will open the Gaza crossing and end the siege, including the establishment of a port, if Hamas abandoned its tunnel digging and rocket attacks.

Director of the border crossing administration in the Defense Ministry Kamil Abu Rokn revealed the plan to the heads of Israeli kibbutzim surrounding the Gaza Strip.

“In light of the humanitarian crisis in the strip and its effect on Israeli security, we are studying the possibility of constructing a railway track that connects Israel to Gaza,” he said.

The railway will pass through the Beit Hanoun crossing.

An Israeli officer explained that a train station will be built in the Erez kipputz that is located near the Beit Hanoun crossing.

Furthermore, he revealed that Israel is studying the possibility of granting Gaza residents permits to work in the agricultural field in Israel, most notably in the kibbutzim surrounding the coastal strip.

The heads of the kibbutzim had themselves made this request, reported Yediot Ahronot newspaper.

Lieberman had voiced his support for this proposal on condition that calm be preserved.

The Israeli Shin Bet security agency had however opposed the idea of allowing Gaza workers entry into Israel.

The Israeli announcement came days after the Palestinian Authority declared it will no longer pay for the electricity Israel supplies to Gaza, a move that could lead to a complete power shutdown in the territory whose two million people already endure blackouts for much of the day.

The decision is part of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ series of procedures that are aimed at forcing Hamas to give up the strip to the government.

Israel supplies only 30 percent of Gaza’s power needs, which Israel deducts from the taxes it routinely collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. Israeli authorities deal with the PA for electrical and fuel supplies to Gaza because they do not engage with Hamas.

Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Major General Yoav Mordechai said that the PA has officially informed him that it would stop paying for Gaza’s electricity, which means that the Strip would soon plunge in complete darkness.

Israeli officials announced earlier that Tel Aviv will not immediately cut the electricity over fears of the deteriorating humanitarian situation there. Israel is trying to appear as if it is more concerned than the PA over Gaza. This approach has paid off and Hamas is actually counting on Israel to not comply with the PA demand.

Hamas warned against approving the Authority’s request. Party spokesperson Hazem Kassem said that both Israel and Abbas’ government will regret this behavior.

Hamas considered the move a crime against the Palestinian people, warning that if the siege is not lifted, there will be “an explosion and the explosion will be against the Zionist occupation, as well as against everyone who behave improperly.”

“The occupation or the PA will regret this behavior because Hamas has many options in which it can reply to this crime, because we are defending our people and their right to live,” he added.