Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu

Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu looks on after reading the oath during his inauguration ceremony in Male on November 17, 2023.

(Photo: Ishara Kodikara/AFP via Getty Images)

Maldives Bans All Israeli Travelers Over 'Genocidal Acts' in Gaza

Nearly 11,000 Israelis visited the Indian Ocean archipelago nation last year.

Citing the Gaza genocide, the Maldives said Sunday that it will ban all Israeli passport holders from entering the Indian Ocean archipelago nation, in which income from tourism accounts for nearly 30% of the gross domestic product.

Acting on a recommendation by his Cabinet, Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu will impose the travel ban, the details of which will be determined by a specially appointed subcommittee. Muizzu's office also said the president will appoint a special envoy "to assess Palestinian needs."

Muizzu will also launch 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 and to conduct a nationwide rally under the slogan 'Falastheenaa Eku Dhivehin,' which translates to 'Maldivians in Solidarity with Palestine,' to show support."

Like Palestine, the Maldives is a majority Sunni Muslim nation. There have been numerous well-attended pro-Palestine rallies in the Maldivian capital Male since October.

Last month, the Maldives reaffirmed its intention to join the South Africa-led genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, with Muizzu's office accusing the Israeli government and military of violating the Genocide Convention and causing "mass displacement, acute starvation, and blockage of humanitarian aid."

According to Palestinian and international officials, at least 36,479 Palestinians—mostly women and children—have been killed by Israeli forces since October 7, when Hamas-led militants attacked Israel and killed more than 1,100 people and kidnapped over 240 others. At least 82,777 other Palestinians have been wounded and an estimated 11,000 Gazans are missing and believed dead and buried beneath the rubble of hundreds of thousands of bombed-out building.

Responding to last month's massacre of dozens of Palestinian refugees in a Rafah tent encampment and the wider Israeli assault on Gaza's southernmost city, the Maldivian government said that "such deliberate aggression and genocidal acts targeted against civilians are in gross violation of international humanitarian law."

This isn't the first time the Maldives has banned Israeli travelers. The country's government ended the previous ban in the early 1990s with an eye toward normalizing relations with Tel Aviv. However, normalization efforts were abandoned following the 2012 coup that ousted then-President Mohamed Nasheed.

Maldivian government data show 528 Israelis visited the country—known for its pristine white sand beaches and stunning turqouise lagoons—during the first four months of 2024, a decrease from 4,644 during the same period last year. Nearly 11,000 Israelis visited the Maldives last year.

Israel and many of its international supporters shrugged off the impending ban, with the Israeli government's account on the social media platform X saying, "We're good," and one prominent Tel Aviv attorney scoffing, "Maldives, Schmaldives."

The Israeli Foreign Minister advised Sunday that citizens already in the Maldives should "consider leaving, because if they find themselves in distress for any reason, it will be difficult for us to assist."

According to the Israeli government, 10 other nations—Algeria, Bangladesh, Brunei, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, and Yemen—ban entry of Israeli passport holders.

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