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An Opening Between Israel And Gaza — For Now


It's a picture we haven't seen in years - Palestinians in Gaza lining up in large numbers to go work in Israel. That route has usually been closed, as Israel and Hamas have battled for a decade. Now they're working on an arrangement, an indirect arrangement to cool things down. NPR's Daniel Estrin is in Gaza. He joins me now. Hey, Daniel.


KELLY: So what is this agreement, indirect or not, that they're trying to come up with?

ESTRIN: Well, for starters, they're not calling it an agreement. They're refusing to call it that because they don't recognize each other as legitimate entities. I asked a spokesman from Hamas today, what is this? And here's how he described it.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Through interpreter) It's not a cease-fire. It's not an agreement. It's quiet for quiet.

ESTRIN: So quiet in exchange for quiet, which means Hamas, which is a militant group, is agreeing to prevent rocket attacks on Israel and to prevent confrontations with Israeli soldiers at the Israeli fence separating Israel from Gaza. So we're not going to see any more fiery kites and rock-throwing, and protests there are on hold. And in return, Israel is starting to let Gaza breathe a little, and it's relaxing restrictions that they put on Gaza for years ever since Hamas took power there.

KELLY: So it sounds like this quiet for quiet deal, or whatever you want to call it, is already changing some things. I mean, you're there. What are you seeing that looks different than it might have a couple of weeks ago?

ESTRIN: Already tons of changes. I drove up to the Israeli border crossing with Gaza yesterday, and usually, the parking lot there is pretty sleepy because Israel prevents most Palestinians from leaving Gaza into Israel. But when I arrived, there were scores of Palestinians crossing into Israel. They were hopping into minibuses, and they were going to cities all around Israel. Let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking non-English language).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Speaking non-English language).

ESTRIN: Drivers are calling out Tel Aviv and other cities in Israel. It's really - it was an astonishing scene because for years, very few Palestinians have been allowed to come from Gaza to Israel to work. And now officials here are saying that Israel is very quietly allowing in more than 5,000 laborers, you know, to do very menial jobs. But they earn about 10 times as much as they could in Gaza.

KELLY: Wow. Although - am I right in thinking that the Gaza Strip is still fenced off? It's still restricted for those people who aren't able to take advantage of finding jobs in Israel. There's still a couple of million people there, right?

ESTRIN: It's true. This is starting to ease some pressure in Gaza for the lucky few who can get these permits to leave. But it is - for average people, it's a drop in the bucket. People are out of jobs in very high numbers. Water is undrinkable. And people here are very aware that, you know, violence could start up again, and all these changes could just disappear in a moment's notice.

KELLY: Thank you, Daniel.

ESTRIN: You're welcome.

KELLY: NPR's Daniel Estrin reporting there from Gaza City.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.