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Maldives bans Israelis from entering country during war in Gaza

The Indian Ocean tourist destination Maldives is now banning Israelis from entering its territory in an apparent retaliatory move over the war in Gaza. 

The government of the predominantly Muslim island nation announced that President Mohammed Muizzu enacted the ban this week following a recommendation from his cabinet. 

‘The Cabinet decision includes amending necessary laws to prevent Israeli passport holders from entering the Maldives and establishing a Cabinet subcommittee to oversee these efforts,’ his office said in a statement, adding that ‘the President decided to appoint a special envoy to assess Palestinian needs.’ 

‘The President further decided to set up a fundraising campaign to assist our brothers and sisters in Palestine with the help of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and to conduct a nationwide rally under the slogan ‘Falastheenaa Eku Dhivehin,’ which translates to ‘Maldivians in Solidarity with Palestine’ to show support,’ the statement also said. 

UNRWA has recently faced allegations that some of its employees participated in Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7, which launched the war in Gaza. 

Israel’s foreign ministry responded to Muizzu’s ban by urging Israelis to stay away from the Maldives. 

‘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, according to Reuters. 

The U.S. State Department, which said last year that it has provided $36 million in bilateral foreign assistance to the Maldives since 2018, did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment from Fox News Digital. 

The State Department says the constitution of the Maldives ‘designates Islam as the state religion, requires citizens to be Muslim, and requires public office holders, including the President, to be followers of Sunni Islam.’ 

‘The law states that both the government and the people must protect religious unity, and propagation of any religion other than Islam is a criminal offense,’ it adds. 

Last year, around 11,000 Israelis visited the Maldives, around 0.6% of its total tourist arrivals, The Associated Press reported.

Jonathan Schanzer, the senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, told Fox News Digital that ‘The Maldives government now aligns itself with the likes of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Syria, Algeria, Kuwait and other authoritarian Muslim world states,’ which also ban Israeli passport holders.

‘This will not likely bode well for the Maldives over time. Joining this alliance is often a sign of corruption, radicalization and even exploitation by outside actors,’ he added.

Rev. Johnnie Moore, president of The Congress of Christian Leaders, also responded to the ban on X by saying, ‘If the Maldives aren’t safe for Israelis then they aren’t safe for any of us.’ 

‘The Congress of Christian Leaders is issuing a global travel warning: no Christian should feel safe in a country where Islamic extremists determine national policy,’ he also said. 

This post appeared first on FOX NEWS

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