If Hamas does not cease recruiting Gazan citizens with travel permits for terror, Israel will close all crossings out of Gaza, IDF Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai warned in an interview with a Palestinian newspaper.
The terror organization which runs the Gaza Strip has been attempting to coerce Gaza residents with Israeli entry permits into smuggling and committing terror acts against Israel, said Mordechai, who acts as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).
Hamas’s targets are Gazans who have been given permission to travel to Israel through the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings, mainly for medical care. Mordechai mentioned a case of a cancer patient who traveled to Nablus for care being asked by Hamas to gather intelligence against Israel.
Another man with an entry permit, who trades in Israel, was captured by security forces attempting to smuggle goods for Hamas, Mordechai said.
The “cynical exploitation” of the entry permits is “forcing Israel to think twice before it issues permits to Gazans,” warned Mordechai in the interview with Al Quds, as reported by Channel 10 in Israel.
Eventually, the situation will lead to the full closure of the Gaza Strip and the “complete cessation of travel by Gazans from the Strip,” he said.
Hamas, Mordechai continued, is “not interested in serving the public in Gaza”, but only in preparing for a military clash with Israel. Its actions are sabotaging Israel’s economic plan, adopted in 2014, to boost the Gazan economy and improve life for residents.
Israel’s economic aid plan was developed after a ceasefire with Hamas ended Operation Protective Edge. Israel has since issued over 100,000 entry permits allowing Gazans to cross into Israel for medical care, trade, and prayer in Jerusalem.
In addition to coercing them to work against Israel, Hamas forces all those who go through the crossing to pay a tax, and diverts those funds towards improving its military capabilities rather than the welfare of Gaza’s citizens, said Mordechai.