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Israel takes Palestinian minister“s VIP pass in world court flap

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Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki speaks during a news conference with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, following the Arab Ministerial Committee meeting in Amman, Jordan April 21, 2022. REUTERS/Alaa Al Sukhni

Israel suspended on Sunday a VIP pass easing the Palestinian foreign minister’s travel in and around the occupied West Bank, among retaliatory measures for a Palestinian bid to involve the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in their decades-old conflict.

Entering the Israeli-occupied West Bank from Jordan, Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki was detained for 30 minutes by border guards who confiscated his “VIP” travel card, his office said.

A spokesperson for Israel’s Defence Ministry, which administers the West Bank, confirmed the move, calling it part of the implementation of a government decision on Friday.

In that decision, Israel announced retaliatory measures after the U.N. General Assembly, responding to an appeal by the Palestinians, asked the ICJ for an opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

Among the five measures listed was “revocation of benefits for VIPs leading the legal-diplomatic war against Israel”.

On Saturday, Israel’s Defence Ministry said the VIP cards of three other senior Palestinian officials had been revoked in response to them visiting a member of Israel’s Arab minority who had been imprisoned for killing an Israeli soldier.

Issued under interim accords with Israel from the 1990s, the cards ease travel across the Israeli-controlled West Bank border with Jordan and from Palestinian-ruled territory into Israel.

“The foreign minister will continue his job and his diplomatic activities with or without the card,” Ahmed Al-Deek, an aide to Maliki, told Reuters.

Israel had confiscated Maliki’s VIP card in 2021 after he returned from a meeting of the International Criminal Court. It was not immediately clear when and why the card had been restored.

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