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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Israel Lifts Ban for Select Palestinian Workers

JERUSALEM -- Israel said Monday it would let a limited number of Palestinian workers return to their jobs in the Jewish state for the first time since clamping a closure on the West Bank and Gaza more than a month ago.

The army announced the apparent goodwill gesture about a week before U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was expected to make her maiden visit to the region to try to end a deep crisis in peacemaking between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

"The defense minister ... ordered entry restrictions eased, and as of today 4,000 [Palestinians] who are married and over the age of 35 will be allowed to enter Israel to work," an army statement said.

Some 51,000 Palestinians worked in Israel before a suicide attack in Jerusalem on July 30 claimed the lives of 17 people including two bombers. Israel imposed an entry ban that took a further toll on the ailing Palestinian economy.

"It is not true that we are lifting the closure," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israel Radio before the army issued its statement. "We are easing it gradually to the limit set by our security assessments which are examined daily."

Israel Radio said Palestinian security authorities had started taking limited action against "terrorists" in a bid to prevent anti-Israeli attacks in the run-up to Albright's visit.