The Israeli army's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) has suggested new rules that would bar Israeli Arabs from visiting the Gaza Strip. After two Israelis went missing in Gaza in the past year and were being held by Hamas, COGAT proposed plans on Thursday to enforce even stricter border security.
While Jews were forbidden by law from entering Gaza, Israeli Arabs currently can enter the region only to see first-degree relatives after being approved by COGAT. Only 762 Israelis have been allowed entry into Gaza so far this year, reported Haaretz. Sami Turgeman, a member of Israel's Southern Command, a regional arm of the Israel Defense Forces, has approved the new rules that were proposed by COGAT director Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai. The rules would only allow entry for humanitarian reasons after an intensive security check.
"Hamas is liable to exploit Israeli Arabs' ties to Gaza," according to a COGAT press statement released Thursday, Haaretz reported. "It is even holding two innocent Israeli civilians against their will, one of them a Bedouin. Thus, at the present moment, the entry of Arab Israelis into the Strip has security implications."
The laws came amidst a growing fear in Israel about the radicalization of Israeli Arabs, who have been marginalized in the state. Several dozen Israeli Arabs have left the country to fight with the Islamic State in Syria, also known as ISIS, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Haneen Zoabi, a member of the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, suggested that Israeli Arabs have been joining ISIS because they are "living here without a goal and without a strong sense of identity, which pushes them to these acts," reports the Jerusalem Post.
In their statement, COGAT said that changes to further restrict the ability of Israeli Arabs to cross the border into Gaza was necessary because the "security situation in the Gaza Strip" meant that people entering might be risking their lives.