Qatari envoy says letting Gazans work in Israel would calm border

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A Qatari diplomat working behind the scenes to ease tensions at the Israel-Gaza border suggested that Palestinians would stop protests and sending incendiary kites across the border 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 Qatari proposal.

For weeks Palestinians have been letting loose incendiary balloons and kites, setting fire to thousands of acres of farmland and forests in southern Israel.

At least 136 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops during mass demonstrations along the Gaza border since March 30 and the Gazans sending the kites over the fence believe they have found an effective new weapon.

Gaza is controlled by the Islamist militant group Hamas. Israel, citing security concerns, restricts movement of goods and people across the border.

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 would 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 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. Hamas says it is holding them but does not give any details.

Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch and Nidal al-Mughrabi; editing by David Evans