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First Palestinian tourists visit Cyprus direct from Israel

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For the first time, Palestinian tourists landed at Larnaca Airport on a flight of the Israeli private carrier, Arkia, which flew directly to Cyprus from Ramon, in southern Israel.

It is the first flight for Palestinian tourists departing from Ramon Airport, in accordance with the new package of confidence-building measures between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, agreed upon during US President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel.

Up until now, Palestinian Authority passport holders, to fly abroad, had to drive from the West Bank to Jordan via the Allenby Bridge border control to reach Amman International airport.

This procedure was implemented for decades due to Israeli security restrictions, which did not allow Palestinian Authority nationals to fly via Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion International Airport.

In line with the new confidence-building measures, it was agreed that PA nationals would be allowed to drive 180 km from Ramallah via Jerusalem to the new Ramon airport, on the outskirts of the southern Israeli city of Eilat, by bus, specially chartered under security measures.

According to AFP, of the 40 Palestinian passengers, 25 were members of a local pharmacists’ association, initially intending to visit Turkey.

However, the Palestinian travel agency organising their excursion offered Cyprus as an alternate destination because Israeli airlines do not yet operate flights to and from Turkish airports.

The Arkia flight was exclusively intended for Palestinian Authority passport holders.

Palestinian PM Mohammad Shtayyeh reiterated his Government’s request to reopen the former international airport in Jerusalem, to serve Palestinian nationals and West Bank residents who want to fly abroad.

An airport in the Atarot area, on the northern outskirts of Jerusalem near Qalandia Checkpoint, served international flights when East Jerusalem was under Jordanian rule.

Nevertheless, when East Jerusalem came under Israeli control after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the Jordanian “Al-Quds International Airport” in Atarot stopped serving commercial flights.

A few years later, its operation was completely shut down, and since 2001 a significant part of its area has been included in wider Israeli construction projects.