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Israel blocks Palestinian agricultural exports

Israel and the Palestinian Authority have escalated economic sanctions following the unveiling of the 'deal of the century'
A Palestinian farmer packs pomelo in a field in the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank on 1 February 2020 (AFP)

Israeli authorities have blocked Palestinian exports from going abroad via Jordan, official Palestinian Authority (PA) news agency Wafa reported on Saturday, as tensions have ratcheted since US President Donald Trump unveiled his much-maligned proposal to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on 28 January.

While an official Israeli ban on Palestinian exports is set to be implemented starting on Sunday, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the PA Ministry of Economy said in a statement carried by Wafa that several trucks filled with Palestinian agricultural products had already been turned back by Israeli authorities at crossings with Jordan.

The only crossing between the occupied West Bank and Jordan is manned by Israeli authorities, which control the entry and exit of people and goods into the occupied Palestinian territory.

The move came after the PA earlier this week announced it was banning a number of Israeli products from entering the Palestinian market, itself in reaction to the decision by Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett on 31 January to halt the import of West Bank products into Israel.

Bennett's order, meanwhile, came after the PA had boycotted the import of Israeli cattle for three months.

With all borders controlled by Israel, the Palestinian economy is highly vulnerable to Israeli sanctions. According to Wafa, Palestinian agricultural exports amounted to $130m in 2018, with two thirds of these exports going to Israel.

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The trade war comes as Palestinian leadership has categorically rejected Trump’s "Peace to Prosperity" plan, which proposes that Israel formally annex East Jerusalem and some two thirds of the West Bank, in exchange for a fragmented, demilitarised Palestinian state with only limited right of return for Palestinian refugees currently abroad.

Critics of the so-called "deal of the century" have said the plan in effect seeks to officialise a system of apartheid.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to halt security coordination with Israel in response, although the PA has yet to implement the move.

Since the US unveiled the full plan, at least five Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces. While a Palestinian citizen of Israel was killed on Thursday in the Old City of Jerusalem after attempting to shoot Israeli policemen, the majority of those killed were participating in demonstrations against the US proposals.