RAMALLAH: Palestinians traveling from and through Jordan to the West Bank via an Israeli crossing face long delays and overcrowding.
Palestinians, who have no airport, are forced to go through Queen Alia International Airport in Jordan.
Nearly 3.5 million Palestinians travel from the West Bank through Jordan in one year.
According to Palestinian sources, around 7,000 passengers cross daily from Jordan to the West Bank and from the West Bank to Jordan, reaching up to 10,000 passengers per day on vacation.
The crossings, which are controlled by the Israeli authorities, are open 13 hours a day and five hours on Fridays and Saturdays, contributing to overcrowding.
Thousands of Palestinians who live abroad and have been unable to visit family in the West Bank for the past three years due to COVID-19 restrictions have decided to travel this summer, adding pressure to the overcrowding.
The United States and Morocco negotiated with Israel to open the crossings 24 hours a day, and Israel said it agreed but needed to prepare logistics by the end of September. But Palestinian sources told Arab News they had not yet received any notification of such a possibility.
The anger of the passengers was expressed on social networks.
Abu Adam Al-Khalili wrote on the King Hussein Bridge Facebook page on Friday: “The problem with the King Hussein Bridge is that there is no will to improve people’s movement. The system that has existed for 30 years is the same.
Bilal Abed wrote: “It is now 3 a.m. and there is heavy congestion on the Jordan Bridge towards the West Bank. To those whose trip is not compulsory, please postpone your trip until tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.
One of the passengers waiting on the Jordanian side posted on Facebook that the bridge, which connects the Palestinian territories with Jordan, will receive passengers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, starting in late September. But, shortly after, Khadija Al-Ghorani replied: “The decision must be immediate and not for September because the crisis these days is stifling”.
A woman who identified herself as Um Moataz Mustafa wrote on Saturday morning: “We demand that the bridge be open 24 hours a day to solve the overcrowding. Oh officials, make it easy for travelers because they’re humans, not animals. Traveling to the North and South Poles is easier than crossing the bridge. Why, officials?
The Jordanian side calls the bridge at its border crossing – 2 kilometers east of the Jordan River – the King Hussein Bridge.
The Israelis call their crossing point – 500 meters west of the Jordan – the Allenby crossing.
But Palestinians call them both the Passage of Dignity, a reference to a 1968 battle that saw the first armed military clash between Israeli and Palestinian fighters and the Jordanian army. Israel occupied the West Bank the previous year.
Angry travelers said on social media that it was a crossing of humiliation, not dignity.
The King Hussein Bridge is located in the Jordan Valley, more than 300 meters below sea level.
Summer temperatures in this region peak at 45 degrees Celsius, with children, the elderly and the sick suffering more as they wait for long hours in the scorching sun.
Ahmed Amer, one of the drivers on duty on the King Hussein Bridge, told Arab News he saw more than 2,000 passengers spending the night waiting outside the bridge gate until 7 a.m. – his opening time – while waiting to leave for the West Bank.
He added that the VIP crossing – where each passenger paid between $110 and $200 extra to cross – was also packed with 1,600 passengers.
Amer estimated the number of passengers crossing daily to the West Bank at between 5,000 and 7,000.
“Hundreds of travelers slept outside the gate of the bridge for two nights, waiting to get to the West Bank,” Amer told Arab News, noting that the temperature in that area reached 45 degrees Celsius by midday. .
He said the morning hours were crowded as thousands tried to enter the West Bank.
A senior Palestinian official with the Palestinian General Administration of Borders and Crossings told Arab News that Palestinian crossings are experiencing unprecedented overcrowding due to holidays, returning pilgrims and the arrival of citizens after a hiatus. three years due to the coronavirus.
He said that the Palestinian side has made efforts with all concerned parties, i.e. Jordan and Israel, to mitigate the problem and the severity of the crisis.
He added that there was international interest from the United States and Europe to facilitate the movement of Palestinian citizens through the crossings to and from Jordan.
Palestinian officials are aware of the passenger crisis and are trying to resolve it quietly with their Jordanian counterparts, avoiding any media statements that might irritate them.
A senior Palestinian official told Arab News that Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki had been instructed by the prime minister to contact the Jordanians to resolve the issue.