The Defense Ministry, further easing restrictions on Palestinians, has authorized an additional 3,000 Palestinian merchants to enter Israel, the military said Tuesday. The new permits bring to 26,500 the total number of Palestinians authorized to enter Israel for work. Ten thousand are merchants and 16,500 are laborers. All are from the West Bank, except for 300 merchants from the Gaza Strip. Defense Minister Amir Peretz has been modifying defense policy with regard to the Palestinians since taking office in May. He has increased the number of permits for Palestinians to work in Israel, opened key cargo crossings with the Gaza Strip, and promised to remove illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank.