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Israel-Hamas war: Thousands of Palestinian workers stranded in Israel sent back to Gaza; UN says ‘deeply concerned’


Israel-Hamas war: Israel has deported thousands of Palestinian workers back to Gaza who had been stranded inside Israel since its war with Hamas erupted on 7 October.

On Friday morning, a Guardian reporter in Rafah which is on the southern end of the strip, witnessed many men from all ages entering Gaza through the Karem Abu Salem crossing between Israel and southern Gaza, which is normally only used for goods. As per the Guardian report, these men walked around 2 kilometres from the Israeli side of the border and had no phones, money, or even identity cards. 

Over 3,200 people were allegedly sent back via the joint Israeli-Egyptian checkpoint, according to a report published by the independent Egyptian news outlet Mada Masr.

“Israel is severing all contact with Gaza. There will be no more Palestinian workers from Gaza,” a statement from the Israeli security council stated as reported by AFP. “Those workers from Gaza who were in Israel on the day of the outbreak of the war will be returned to Gaza,” it added, without specifying how many people would be sent back.

Before the war started, some 18,500 Gazans were holding Israeli work permits, according to figures provided by COGAT, the Israeli defence body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs. However, how many Gazans were working inside Israel on October 7 is not known.

Following the onslaught, Israel struck back hard with a relentless bombing campaign that has killed more than 9,000 people, mainly civilians, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

UN express concern as Israel deports Palestinian workers

The UN has said that it is ‘very concerned’ as Israel began sending thousands of Palestinian workers back to Gaza who had been stuck in Israel since the start of hostilities. 

While speaking at a press conference in Geneva, UN human rights office spokeswoman Elizabeth Throssell said that the workers may not have homes to return to and face grave dangers from ongoing military clashes in the territory.

“I understand that among these people who are being sent back are those Palestinian workers and hospital patients who had been detained in the aftermath of October 7,” Throssell said as quoted by AFP. “We were very concerned that at least 4,000 Palestinian workers and hospital patients were detained without sufficient legal basis in military facilities after Israel revoked their permits,” Throssell said. 

“There are worrying reports that some are being sent back into Gaza, despite the gravity of the situation there,” Throssell said. “We don’t know exactly to where; it probably isn’t clear whether they have got even a home to go to; and it’s an incredibly difficult and dangerous situation.”

(With inputs from AFP)

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Updated: 04 Nov 2023, 07:19 AM IST

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.