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US says West Bank-Jordan crossing to open 24/7, but Israeli restrictions increase

US ambassador's announcement fulfills a Biden administration goal for Palestinians
Vehicles queue at the Jordanian side of the King Hussein Bridge (also known as Allenby Bridge) crossing between the West Bank and Jordan on 19 July 2022.
Vehicles queue at the Jordanian side of the King Hussein Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan on 19 July 2022 (AFP)
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Washington

The US ambassador to Israel announced on Wednesday that a border crossing between Jordan and the occupied West Bank will begin to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in a pilot programme that comes despite increasing restrictions being imposed on Palestinians.

"It's worth the investment to get to 24/7 access and will make a real difference in people's lives!" said Ambassador Tom Nides in a tweet making the announcement.

In a press conference in Jerusalem, Nides said the new hours of operation were supposed to have taken effect on Friday, however there has been a delay due to the Jewish High Holidays. The pilot programme for the crossing is now set to begin on 24 October.

US President Joe Biden said in July during a visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank that one of his goals was to establish 24/7 access to the border crossing, which goes by three names: the Allenby Bridge (named after the British governor Edmund Allenby) on the Israeli side; al-Karameh ("the Dignity") on the Palestinian side; and the King Hussein bridge in Jordan.

The crossing, currently only open from the Israeli side from 8am to 11:30pm during the week, and 8am to 3:30pm on weekends, is the only border entry Palestinians can use to directly travel between the West Bank and Jordan's capital, Amman. On the Jordanian side, it is already open all hours and days of the week.

Queues at the border crossing can last hours or up to an entire day to cross into Jordan. In July, hundreds of people attempting to use the crossing to enter the West Bank from Jordan were left stranded after Israeli authorities capped the number of entries to 4,000 people per day.

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Earlier this month, Barbara Leaf, US assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, said all-day opening of the crossing was one of the issues Washington was pushing in an attempt to improve cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Still, despite the announcement, Israel has been working to restrict the travel of Palestinians going between Jordan and the occupied West Bank.

Earlier this month, Israel drew condemnation from Palestinians and rights advocates after it issued a new 97-page ordinance that would require foreign passport holders in the West Bank to report romantic relationships with Palestinians.

The ordinance would have also restricted Palestinians from visiting family members and sharply limit Palestinian academic exchanges with foreign universities, an escalation of an already entrenched system of discrimination against Palestinians in the West Bank.

However, a day later, Israel released a new version of the ordinance that removed both the requirement to report romantic relations and the cap on academic exchanges.

The new law, which does not apply to Jewish settlements in the West Bank, still discriminates against Palestinians by interfering in their public and private life, as well as their freedom of movement, according to rights groups.

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