Israel eases land border closures

By: AFP      Published: 10:33 PM, 12 Mar, 2021
Israel eases land border closures

Israeli on Friday announced slight easing of restrictions on its borders with Jordan and Egypt, which were closed to curb the spread of Covid-19 since late January.

The cabinet approved the decision following measures endorsed by the health ministry, a government statement said.

One was to allow entry to 700 Jordanians to work in the hotel industry in the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat, close to the Jordanian port of Aqaba.

The workers would have to undergo a coronavirus test upon entry and then go into quarantine, the statement said, but it did not give a date for their entry. 

The decision comes after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled on Thursday a historic visit to the United Arab Emirates due to a disagreement with Jordan over crossing its airspace.

An Israeli government statement said that "difficulties" over a planned overflight stemmed from the cancellation by Israel of a planned visit on Wednesday by Jordan's Crown Prince Hussein to the revered Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the Israelis had wanted to unilaterally set restrictions on the royal visit.

"We had agreed with Israel on the arrangements for the visit," he told reporters.

"But we were surprised at the last moment that Israel wanted to impose new arrangements."

Friday's statement also said that diplomats would be able to use the Jordan river crossing, further north, and cross between Israel and Egypt using the Taba border, also near Eilat.

Eilat's economy is heavily dependent on visitors from Israel and abroad and has been hard hit by the pandemic.

As part of a gradual lifting of restrictions Israel is gradually reopening hotels, along with restaurants, bars, cafés and some other businesses, but only to those who have been fully vaccinated and obtained the so-called "green pass" to prove it.

It has so far given the recommended two jabs of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to just over four million of its roughly nine million population.