JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A group of Palestinian passengers flew from an Israeli airport to Cyprus on Monday, but the flight was not organized as promised to ease views on the occupied Jordan River, an airport authority spokesman said. Travel restrictions for residents of the West Bank.
Following U.S. pressure, Israeli authorities earlier this month agreed to ease some strict travel restrictions that prevent Palestinians from using Israeli airports — including major Israeli airports International Hub Ben Gurion – No special permission.
The Israel Airports Authority said on August 9 that special flights from Ramon Airport, near the Red Sea resort of Eilat, will be allowed to Palestinian passengers are sent to some destinations in Turkey.
The program was due to start this month but was delayed for reasons unspecified by airport authorities, according to a statement on Sunday.
The change comes amid ongoing tensions in the West Bank, with almost daily Israeli military operations against suspected militant groups and repeated clashes with Palestinian protesters.
A spokesman for the airport authority said Palestinian passengers who departed from Ramon Airport to Cyprus on Monday were not part of the program and left under a separate arrangement.
“This is a scheduled flight. I will not check passengers on scheduled flights,” the spokesman said, referring any further questions to airline Arkia Israel Airlines.
Amir Assi, Arkia’s strategic advisor, described it as a “private” initiative coordinated with the relevant Palestinian and Israeli authorities.
Travelers from the cities of Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus and Jericho gathered at the checkpoint at Metal in the south of the West Bank and were taken directly to the airport, he said.
Assi said he had previously organized similar trips for Palestinian passport holders at Ben Gurion Airport.
Palestinians cannot take off from Ben Gurion near Tel Aviv from areas occupied by Israel in the 1967 war without special permission. They usually travel to Jordan for an international flight, which requires crossing checkpoints and can take hours.
Ramon Airport opened in 2019, approximately 300 kilometers (185 miles) from Jerusalem, design
(Reporting by Henriette Chacar and Nuha Sharaf; Additional reporting by Dan Williams; Edited by James Mackenzie and Catherine Evans)