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Qatari envoy says letting Gazans work in Israel might calm protests

Qatari diplomat Emadi floats idea during interview with Israeli public broadcaster Kane
Israel has met protests with lethal force, killing at least 136 Palestinians (AFP/file photo)

A Qatari diplomat working behind the scenes to ease tensions near the fence separating Israel and Gaza suggested that Palestinians would stop protests and sending incendiary kites across the fence if Israel were to allow in 5,000 Gazans on work permits.

Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi floated the idea during an interview with Israeli public broadcaster Kane on Sunday.

Israeli and Hamas officials had no immediate comment on the proposal.

Tensions have soared in Gaza since 30 March, when Israel met largely peaceful mass protests near the fence separating Israel from Gaza with lethal force, killing at least 136 Palestinians. There have been no Israeli fatalities.

Gaza has been ruled by Hamas since 2007, a year after the Islamist party won parliamentary elections. Israel has imposed a stringent siege on Gaza every since, restricting movement of goods and people through crossings.

Since the beginning of the Great March of Return in Gaza more than 100 days ago - in which demonstrators have called for an end to the blockade and their right of return to the villages their families fled during the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 - a number of Palestinians from the impoverished enclave have flown kites carrying incendiary devices over the fence into Israel, believing the cheap, flimsy devices to be a new tool to disrupt Israel.

Al-Emadi said that were Israel to let in workers from the Gaza Strip, where much of the population lives in poverty, the border protests and kite attacks may cease.

"It could start for example with 5,000 people in Gaza who would work in Israel. That is good. That would stop the protests, the fires, the kites and the balloons," al-Emadi said.

Al-Emadi, who said he has mediated between the sides when things get tense, added that there was no significant progress in efforts to secure the release of Israelis who are missing or being held prisoner in Gaza.

Israel has demanded the return of two Israeli civilians who it says crossed into Gaza and are being held by Hamas, as well as the bodies of two soldiers who were killed in a 2014 war against the Strip. Hamas says it is holding them but does not give any details.