Maldives to ban Israelis to protest Gaza war

A rally to show solidarity with Palestinians held in the Maldives on October 14, 2023 (Mohamed Afrah)
A rally to show solidarity with Palestinians held in the Maldives on October 14, 2023 (Mohamed Afrah)

The Indian Ocean nation of the Maldives will ban Israelis from the luxury tourist hot spot, the office of the president said Sunday, announcing a national rally in "solidarity with Palestine".

The Maldives, a tiny Islamic republic of more than 1,000 strategically located coral islets, is known for its secluded sandy white beaches, shallow turquoise lagoons and Robinson Crusoe-style getaways.

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.

Muizzu also announced a national fundraising campaign called "Maldivians in Solidarity with Palestine".

The Maldives had lifted a previous ban on Israeli tourists in the early 1990s and moved to restore relations in 2010.

However, normalisation attempts were scuttled following the toppling of president Mohamed Nasheed in February 2012.

Opposition parties and government allies in the Maldives have been putting pressure on Muizzu to ban Israelis, as a sign of protest against the Gaza war.

Official data showed the number of Israelis visiting the Maldives dropped to 528 in the first four months of this year, down 88 percent compared to the corresponding period last year.

In response to the ban, an Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman urged citizens to avoid travel to the Maldives.

"For Israeli citizens staying in the country, it is recommended to consider leaving, since if they fall into distress for any reason, it will be difficult for us to help," the spokesman added.

The Gaza war was sparked by Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,189 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 36,439 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

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