Gaza blockade: Senior Israeli army officers call for partial lifting of policy many blame for paralysing economy and impoverishing residents

The officers believe that the continuing economic crisis can help fuel a renewal of hostilities in the region

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Senior Israeli army officers have called for the partial blockade of Gaza to be eased to help raise living standards in the impoverished enclave.

The officers have urged the country’s Defence Minister, Moshe Yaalon, to unblock the crossings between Gaza and Israel, reversing the policy introduced eight years ago after Hamas seized power there, according to the newspaper Haaretz.

The blockade – combined with similar restrictions by Egypt – is widely blamed for paralysing Gaza’s economy, impoverishing most of its 1.8 million residents and creating a sense of hopelessness that has played into the hands of Palestinian extremists. Because of a combination of the blockade and the recent war, unemployment in the territory is now the highest rate in the world, with 64.7 per cent of people aged 16 to 24 out of work, and 80 per cent of Gazans now reliant on international aid, according to Oxfam.

The Israeli officers believe that the continuing economic crisis can help fuel a renewal of hostilities. “As long as the basic economic problems of Gaza remain, the potential for a new military conflict also remains, irrespective of the degree of deterrence we achieved in the last war,” a senior officer in the general staff told Haaretz.

The recommendations, which would require full cabinet agreement if Mr Yaalon endorsed them, include opening the Erez Crossing between Israel and Gaza, enabling many more people to travel through Israel to the occupied, but Palestinian-run, West Bank and to Jordan. The Karni crossing into Israel would be opened for the passage of goods, and more trucks than the current 500 a day would be enabled to use the Kerem Shalom crossing between Gaza and Israel.

The officers also recommended allowing several thousand Gazans to work in agriculture in Israel.

Itamar Yaar, former deputy head of Israel’s National Security Council, told The Independent: “This should have been done earlier, but I understand those who thought economic steps would weaken Hamas. After years in which this weakening didn’t happen, we must recognise facts and recognise that you can’t hold millions of Palestinians hostage even if we don’t like their political choices.”