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Maldives to ban Israeli passport holders entry over war on Gaza

Israel recommends its citizens to avoid Asian archipelago nation following passport ban
Demonstrators gather to show solidarity with Palestinians during a rally held in the artificial beach region in the capital city of Male on 14 October (AFP/Mohamed Afrah)

The Maldives announced on Sunday that it will ban Israelis from entering the country as public anger rises over the war on Gaza.

President Mohamed Muizzu has "resolved to impose a ban on Israeli passports," a spokesman for his office said in a statement, without giving details of when the new law would take effect.

In response, Israel's foreign ministry recommended that its citizens not travel to the Maldives, including those with dual citizenship.

"For Israeli citizens already in the country, it is recommended to consider leaving, because if they find themselves in distress for any reason, it will be difficult for us to assist," it said.

In addition to banning Israeli passport holders, Muizzu's cabinet also "decided to appoint a special envoy to assess Palestinian needs" and to launch a fundraising campaign "to assist our brothers and sisters in Palestine" with the help of Unrwa, the UN’s Palestinian relief agency.

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Earlier this year, a string of western countries, including the USUK, Canada and Germany, suspended funding to Unrwa after Israel alleged that 12 Unrwa employees were involved in the 7 October surprise attack launched by Hamas on southern Israel.

As a result of the allegations, Unrwa terminated the contracts of 10 employees (two were confirmed dead). Sixteen countries paused or froze financial contributions to the agency, amounting to around half of the agency's annual budget.

The Colonna report, which was commissioned by the UN, found that Israeli authorities had not provided "any supporting evidence" to back up allegations of Unrwa staff links to Hamas. 

While both nations do not have diplomatic ties after they were suspended in 1974, Israelis have been allowed to visit the picturesque island since the early 1990s, when it removed a previous ban on Israeli tourism.

According to the Maldives Ministry of Tourism, 528 Israelis visited the country in the first quarter of this year, down 89 per cent from 4,644 in the first quarter of 2023. 

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