(JTA) – Access to the Gaza Strip for Israeli Arabs will be limited because of safety concerns, an Israeli general said.
Yoav Poli Mordechai, the Israel Defense Forces co-ordinator of government activities in the Palestinian territories, announced the new policy Thursday, Army Radio reported, quoting him as saying that “Hamas may use the link to Gaza that some Arab Israelis have” to further its goals.
He noted that one of two Israelis believed to be in Hamas captivity is an Arab from a Bedouin community.
“There is fear for the lives of those who enter” the Gaza Strip, Mordechai said.
Earlier this month, a gag order on the suspected detention of an Ethiopian Israeli and the missing Bedouin man in Gaza was lifted. The Ethiopian Israeli, Avraham Mengistu, and the Bedouin, whose name was not released to the media in keeping with the family’s request, are believed to have been in Hamas’ hands for months, although the Islamist group denies this.
Thousands of Arab Israelis with families in the West Bank cross the borders between Israel and Palestinian Authority-controlled areas every month. The number of crossings into Gaza decreased drastically to hundreds a month since Hamas’ takeover of the territory in 2007. This dropped further after the 2009 war between Israel and Hamas, and currently only a few dozen cross over each month, according to Army Radio.