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Allenby Bridge crossing to operate 24 hours a day, 5 days a week

June 10, 2017 8:46 P.M. (Updated: June 12, 2017 6:06 P.M.)
(File)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The Israeli-controlled Allenby Bridge border crossing between the occupied West Bank and Jordan is set to be opened 24 hours, five days a week starting June 20, the Karama International Campaign for the Movement of Palestinians said Saturday, corroborating earlier reports of the planned measure.

In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson for COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, confirmed that between June 20 and Sept. 10, the crossing would be open 24 hours Sunday through Thursday, and that on Friday and Saturday it would be open until 5 p.m.

"The decision is intended to be permanent and will serve the residents during the summer months during which there is a rise in the number of crossings," they said, adding that the "relevant officials on both sides of the crossing are prepared and ready for the changes and expected amount of crossings.

The border crossing, known as the al-Karama crossing in Arabic, serves hundreds of Palestinians daily, as Palestinians living in the occupied territory are unable to use Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport -- with the exception of a few special permit holders -- and therefore must cross through the Allenby Bridge to access the Amman airport in order to travel abroad.

Representative of the Karama campaign Talaat Elwi lauded the achievement as the result of "major" efforts undertaken by the Palestinian Authority's borders and crossings department, the Palestinian prime minister, and other members of the Palestinian political echelon toward improving travel procedures, “after decades of complicated bureaucratic procedures” at the notoriously crowded and severely restricted border crossing.

Elwi told Ma’an, after a meeting with Nathmi Muhanna, the director of the borders and crossings department, that public pressure exerted by the Karama (“dignity” in Arabic) campaign has yielded the highest levels of local and international success since its inception, in an attempt to ease restrictions imposed on Palestinian travel between Jordan and the West Bank.

According to Elwi, Muhanna said in their meeting that under the new schedule, on Friday the crossing will operate until 10:30 a.m, and on Saturday until 12:30 p.m. -- contrary to COGAT's statement.

Elwi also said that the crossing would continue with this schedule “at least” until Sept. 10, highlighting that June, July, and August were the busiest time of the year at Allenby, because of the summer holiday, Muslim pilgrimage season, and religious holidays.

The Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh had previously claimed that starting in 2018, the 24 hours a day, five days a week schedule would be implemented permanently.

COGAT said that the measure was among the "civil steps" taken by Israeli to "promote the Palestinian economy and for the benefit of the Palestinian residents" in the occupied West Bank.

Other such steps recently announced included the "expansion of the crossing work hours in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and upgrading them," the establishment of an "industrial zone" near the Tarqumiyah crossing in the West Bank district of Hebron, and reforms concerning "Israeli enforcement policies" in Area C -- the more than 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli military control -- would be "adjusted."

Palestinians have long demanded better conditions at the Allenby Bridge crossing, marked by hours-long wait times, often in buses with no access to food, water or washrooms, with passengers forbidden to leave their bus.

In order to make the crossing, Palestinians wait at the Palestinian Authority station for a bus to fill up to take them to the bridge. Once at the crossing, passengers disembark, go through metal detectors, and then board an Israeli bus to take them the rest of the way to the Israeli crossing point.

Passengers disembark a second time, check their bags, have their belongings and passports checked by Israeli border guards. Many are interrogated. Passengers then have to pick up their bags, carry them to a third bus that will take them to the Jordanian side of the crossing.

Passengers get off the third bus, have their passports checked, while some are interrogated by the Jordanian border guards, pick up their luggage and exit the crossing point in Jordan. The process lasts between four and 12 hours.
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