Palestinians flock to Jordan’s Aqaba and Dead Sea

Aqaba is a thriving city, which attracts families from many countries. (Photo/supplied)
Updated 24 August 2018
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Palestinians flock to Jordan’s Aqaba and Dead Sea

  • More than 2 million Palestinians are packed into the Gaza Strip, which is experiencing deep economic hardship
  • Human rights violations associated with the settlements are “pervasive and devastating, reaching every facet of Palestinian life

AMMAN: Palestinians from the West Bank as well as Palestinian citizens from Israel have arrived in large numbers in Jordan this holiday season.
Abed Ismael, a taxi driver at the King Hussein Bridge, told Arab News that on the second day of the Eid Al-Adha holiday more than 50 buses carrying Palestinians crossed the Jordan River into Jordan.
“There are a lot of JOD90 ($120) holiday packages per night that were very attractive to many to go to the Dead Sea and Aqaba.”
Sharhabil Madi, economics and tourism development commissioner in the Aqaba Special Economic Zone, told Arab News that Aqaba was appealing because it was not merely a holiday resort but also a thriving city, which was attractive to many, including Palestinians.
“There is a discernible increase in the number of Palestinians coming from Jerusalem, the West Bank and especially from Palestinian citizens of Israel.”
Madi said that many were coming by the Wadi Araba crossing, which is less hectic and bureaucratic than other crossings.
“The crossing point is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and in the first two days of Eid we had 3,500 people arriving in the Aqaba area.”
The Aqaba tourism official said that not only were relatively inexpensive packages being offered to Palestinians but those coming to Jordan meet relatives, do shopping in a tax-ree zone and enjoy the beautiful Red Sea shores. Tourism figures for Aqaba and Petra reflect record numbers this year.
Most hotels in Aqaba as well as the Dead Sea have been fully booked for the holidays.
Loya Ayyoub, head of internal tourism at the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism, told Arab News that some of the cultural and entertainment events were also bigger attractions in Jordan. “This weekend many Palestinians are coming to attend the Kazem Al-Shaher concerts, which are on for both Thursday and Friday nights at the Dead Sea hotels. A call to the Movepick Hotel at the Dead Sea said all rooms were full but that after the Kazem Saher concerts rooms were available for as much as JOD 350 ($500) per night. Once the holiday season is over, Jordanian tourism officials are hoping to cash in on the warm shores of Aqaba in the winter months.
Warm weather and sun seekers in the UK will have a new travel destination, as easyJet launches the first nonstop scheduled link from the UK to Aqaba in Jordan this fall. The maiden flight from Gatwick to the resort takes off on Nov. 10. The once-a-week link will also provide access to the ancient city of Petra and the desert landscapes of Wadi Rum. Jordan’s Tourism and Antiquities Minister Lina Annab said: “This collaboration will contribute toward increasing the number of tourists to Jordan’s ‘Golden Triangle’ — Aqaba, Petra and Wadi Rum — and we’re working together to increase the number of routes into Aqaba with easyJet over the next few years.”


Four police officers wounded in Jerusalem attack

Palestinians celebrate the resignation of Israel's defense minister. (AFP)
Updated 16 November 2018
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Four police officers wounded in Jerusalem attack

  • The assault came on the heels of a fragile truce that was reached between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip

JERUSALEM: A knife-wielding Palestinian attacker sneaked into a Jerusalem police station and lightly wounded four police officers before he was shot and captured, Israeli police said on Thursday.

The assault came on the heels of a fragile truce that was reached between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip that ended two days of heavy fighting, the area’s most severe violence since the 50-day Gaza war in 2014.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the knife-wielding attacker climbed over the station’s fence late on Wednesday night and began stabbing officers inside. Other officers then shot the assailant and captured him; he was later taken to hospital.

In the two days of heavy fighting, Palestinian militants had fired 460 rockets and mortars into Israel, while Israel carried out airstrikes on 160 Gaza targets. Seven Palestinians, including five militants, were killed. A rocket fired from Gaza killed a Palestinian laborer in Israel.

The latest round of violence was triggered by a botched Israeli raid on Sunday that left seven Palestinians and a senior Israeli military officer dead. Before the raid, Egyptian and UN mediators had made progress in reducing tensions.

In recent days, Israel had allowed fuel shipments to increase the power supply in Gaza, which suffers from frequent blackouts, and agreed to additional Qatari assistance to allow Hamas to pay the salaries of its thousands of government workers.

The cease-fire led to the resignation of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who had demanded a far stronger Israeli response to the Palestinian rocket attack but appeared to have been overruled by Premier Benjamin Netanyahu.

Resignation

The resignation threw the government into turmoil and pushed the country toward an early election. Netanyahu presented the decision to step back from a full-blown conflict as a unified one made by his Security Cabinet and based on the military’s recommendations. 

But Lieberman and fellow hard-liner Education Minister Naftali Bennett later expressed reservations, saying they favored a stronger response.

Hamas has staged  near-weekly border protests since March in an effort to lift the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after the Islamic militant group seized control of the coastal strip in 2007.  This has inflicted heavy damage on Gaza, but Hamas remains firmly in power. Demonstrators each week approach the border fence, throwing firebombs, grenades and burning tires at Israeli troops. Israeli snipers have killed about 170 people, most of them unarmed.

Bennett of the far-right Jewish Home party was demanding to be given the defense portfolio or he would withdraw his eight seats from Netanyahu’s governing coalition.

Another key coalition partner, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon of center-right Kulanu, reportedly told Netanyahu elections should be called as soon as possible because a stable government was needed to keep the economy on track.

Premier Netanyahu’s political popularity is in large part due to his reputation as Israel’s “Mr. Security,” as he has often been dubbed, and he has defended his decision saying: “Our enemies begged for a cease-fire.

“In times of emergency, when making decisions crucial to security, the public can’t always be privy to the considerations that must be hidden from the enemy,” he said.