Israel has reopened the Taba border post with Egypt that had been closed throughout the coronavirus pandemic, allowing limited number of people to cross to the Sinai peninsula for Passover holidays.
Tuesday’s move was the latest step towards normalcy for Israel, which has vaccinated more than half of its population of around 9.3 million against coronavirus, the world’s fastest per capita pace.
From Tuesday through April 12, 300 Israelis will be allowed through to Taba on the Red Sea each day. To cross, individuals must be inoculated or have recovered from the coronavirus. A negative lab test is also required for travel in both directions.
The decision comes after the Israeli government approved a proposal by the tourism minister last week to form a ministerial committee that formulated a plan to let a limited number of Israelis travel to and from Sinai via the Taba border crossing.
Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula is a popular vacation spot for Israelis, especially during Passover, which marks the exodus of Jews from Egypt. The religious holiday began over the weekend.
While Israel’s vaccination rollout has been successful – with the health ministry saying serious cases had fallen from 800 at the end of last month to 467, vaccinations are going much slower in Palestinian areas.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has relied on donations and limited supplies from Israel. The 5.5 million Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and blockaded Gaza Strip have received only about 120,000 vaccines so far.
Israel has come under international criticism for not doing more to enable Palestinian vaccination.
It says Palestinians are responsible for such health measures in their semi-autonomous areas but critics, rights groups and some Democratic Party legislators in the US have pointed out that as an occupying power, Israel bears the responsibility for inoculating the population it exerts control over.