Maldives to ban Israeli passport holders from entry in protest over Gaza war

The Maldives says it will ban Israelis from entering the country, known for its luxury resorts, with the office of the president making the announcement as public anger in the predominantly Muslim nation rises over the war in Gaza.

President Mohamed Muizzu has “resolved to impose a ban on Israeli passports”, a spokesperson 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 on Sunday that Israeli citizens not travel to the Maldives. The recommendation, the Israeli ministry said, included Israelis 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,” the ministry said in a statement.

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.

The president’s office said on Sunday that the cabinet decided to change the laws to prevent Israeli passport holders from entering the country and to establish a subcommittee to oversee the process.

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 after the toppling of then president Mohamed Nasheed in February 2012.

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

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

Nearly 11,000 Israelis visited Maldives in 2023, which was 0.6% of the total tourist arrivals.

With Agence France-Presse, Associated Press and Reuters

The Guardian

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