JERUSALEM – Israel on Sunday permitted 1,400 more Palestinians to enter Israel, part of a gradual easing of restrictions after last month's Mideast summit.
The entry permits were issued to 900 Palestinian merchants and business people from the West Bank and 500 from the Gaza Strip (search), bringing the total of Palestinians allowed to work in Israel to 9,800.
On Thursday, Israel opened four more transit lanes at the Erez checkpoint, the main crossing between Israel and Gaza. The army said the new lanes are intended to speed the flow of Palestinian traffic into Israel.
On Feb. 9, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz (search) announced a series of measures to alleviate conditions for Palestinians, including allowing 1,000 Palestinians from Gaza to work in Israel and several hundred more to work at the Erez Industrial Zone between Israel and Gaza.
Also, 2,000 workers were permitted to enter Israel from the West Bank (search).
Before Israeli-Palestinian violence erupted more than four years ago, more than 150,000 Palestinians worked in Israel. Now, fewer than 10,000 have permits, a decrease that has contributed substantially to growing economic hardship in the Palestinian areas.
After Abbas' election in January, Israel said it wanted to improve the lives of Palestinians to strengthen him politically.