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Israel gives 10 tonnes of post to Palestinians after eight-year blockade

The items include family photographs, personal letters, medicine and a wheelchair

A Palestinian employee sorts undelivered post at the Palestinian central international exchange post office in the West Bank city of Jericho. Photograph: Atef Safadi/EPA

Israeli occupying forces have allowed 10 tonnes of mail to be handed to Palestinian postal workers after preventing the letters and parcels from entering the West Bank for up to eight years.

The Palestinian ministry of communications uploaded photos to its Facebook page of large piles of white, blue and yellow bags in a room as employees worked through the masses of post.

The undelivered mail was being sifted through in a sorting office in Jericho and included family photographs and personal letters, as well as medicine and a wheelchair. Some packages had been marked as recorded delivery.

Some items had been blocked for security reasons, while others had been stalled for administrative ones, an official said.

A 2016 agreement that allowed Palestinians living under occupation to receive mail directly from Jordan – rather than through Israel – for the first time was never fully enacted.

Israel let this shipment through in a one-time deal, officials said.

The Palestinian telecommunications minister, Allam Mousa, said Israel was still delaying the implementation of the 2016 agreement and did not allow the movement of mail directly through Jordan, and by doing so was not complying with international resolutions.

Mousa said the delays had cost the Palestinian postal system thousands of dollars, pointing to high customs charges and hard-to-obtain permits.

Some of the goods now being delivered were broken, he added, and postal staff were attaching notes to the deliveries to say Israeli authorities had released them in a damaged state.

Ramadan Ghazawi, an official at the sorting centre, told Agence France-Presse that it would take staff two weeks to sort through and deliver the mail.

Restrictions

All entrances and exits to the West Bank, including to and from Jordan, are controlled by Israel, damaging the economy and restricting the freedom of movement for Palestinians.

Israel captured and occupied the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in the 1967 war with Jordan, Egypt and Syria.

It left Gaza in 2005, but continues to maintain control over most of the West Bank, where the Palestinians have limited self-rule.

A note attached to the undelivered wheelchair said it was sent from Turkey three years ago and destined for Gaza. Geographically disconnected from the West Bank, a 10-year blockade by Israel means essential goods including fuel are often prevented from entering Gaza. Many people living there have never left.

Israeli authorities confirmed the packages had been transferred.

Cogat, the defence ministry unit co-ordinating Israeli government activity in the West Bank, said the release was part of confidence-building measures.

The move had “allowed a one-time transfer of approximately 10.5 tonnes of mail that had been held in Jordan”, it said. – Guardian (Agence France-Presse contributed to this report)