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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Blocked by Israel for years, Palestinian post finally arrives

The parcels, dating from 2010, had been prevented by Israel from entering the West Bank via Jordan

A Palestinian postal worker sifts through sacks of previously undelivered mail dating as far back as 2010, which has been withheld by Israel, at the central international exchange post office in the West Bank city of Jericho on August 14, 2018. - Israel had held the post for years but handed it over to the Palestinian authorities after an agreement. (Photo by ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)
A Palestinian postal worker sifts through sacks of previously undelivered mail dating as far back as 2010, which has been withheld by Israel, at the central international exchange post office in the West Bank city of Jericho on August 14, 2018. - Israel had held the post for years but handed it over to the Palestinian authorities after an agreement. (Photo by ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)

Palestinian postal service employees are working overtime to sort through some 10 tonnes of letters and packages blocked by Israel for up to eight years, Palestinian officials said Tuesday.

The parcels, dating from between 2010 and this year, had been prevented by Israel from entering the West Bank via Jordan but were released in a one-time deal, the officials said.

The goods range from simple letters to medicine and even wheelchairs for the disabled, AFP journalists found at the sorting centre in the occupied West Bank city of Jericho.

A Palestinian postal worker holds in his hands a bill for a parcel dating back to 2015, one of many items of mail that was undelivered for eight years because it was withheld by Israel, at the central international exchange post office in the West Bank city of Jericho on August 14, 2018. - Israel had held the post for years but handed it over to the Palestinian authorities after an agreement. (Photo by ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)
A Palestinian postal worker holds in his hands a bill for a parcel dating back to 2015, one of many items of mail that was undelivered for eight years because it was withheld by Israel. AFP

Palestinian Telecommunications Minister Allam Mousa accused Israel in a statement of having blocked the delivery and of delaying the implementation of an agreement on postal services.

Israeli authorities confirmed the packages had been transferred and said an agreement was in the works, but did not comment in detail.

Ramadan Ghazawi, an official at the sorting centre in Jericho, said he understood some items had been blocked for security reasons, while others were barred on administrative grounds.

"A few days ago Israel allowed more than 10 tonnes of postal parcels that were stuck in Jordan," he told AFP.

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He said it would take his staff another two weeks to sort through all the parcels and get them delivered to their recipients.

Israel controls all entrances and exits to the West Bank and can prevent goods passing through as it sees fit.

Palestinian officials say such control cripples their economy and freedom of movement.

In the sorting centre, hundreds of bags were piled on top of each other as workers picked through them in the stifling summer heat.

Ghazawi said that the parcels and letters, mostly the former, had been sent from all over the world.

Ramadan Ghazawi, a Palestinian official at the central international exchange post office in the West Bank city of Jericho, holds up a damaged parcel, one of many items of previously undelivered mail dating as far back as 2010 which has been withheld by Israel, at the premises in Jericho on August 14, 2018. - Israel had held the post for years but handed it over to the Palestinian authorities after an agreement. (Photo by ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)
Ramadan Ghazawi, a Palestinian official at the central international exchange post office in the West Bank city of Jericho, holds up a damaged parcel. AFP

Many were goods ordered online by Palestinians that never arrived.

A note attached to a wheelchair said it was sent from Turkey in 2015 and meant to be delivered to the Gaza Strip.

COGAT, the Israeli defence ministry body responsible for civilian coordination in the Palestinian territories, said the release was part of confidence-building measures after the two sides agreed on a postal entry deal "about a year ago".

It said while the deal had not yet gone into force for future deliveries, it had "allowed a one-time transfer of approximately ten and a half tonnes of mail that had been held in Jordan".

Some of the transferred goods had been broken, and Ghazawi said that to avoid complaints they were delivering them along with a statement saying Israeli authorities had delivered them in this condition.

Ramadan Ghazawi, a Palestinian official at the central international exchange post office in the West Bank city of Jericho, holds up a stack of letters and postcards, among many items of previously undelivered mail dating as far back as 2010 which has been withheld by Israel, at the premises in Jericho on August 14, 2018. - Israel had held the post for years but handed it over to the Palestinian authorities after an agreement. (Photo by ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)
Many items of previously undelivered mail date as far back as 2010 and were withheld by Israel. AFP