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PA to penalize Palestinians owning, selling Israeli SIM cards

April 6, 2017 3:25 P.M. (Updated: April 6, 2017 10:33 P.M.)
(File)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- The Palestinian Authority (PA)'s public prosecution released a statement on Thursday, announcing that after a period of two weeks, the prosecution will begin to take "legal procedures" against any Palestinians who sell or own Israeli SIM cards, adding that the PA considered them "illegal cards" bought and sold in violation of Palestinian law.

The prosecution said in its statement that it would give commercial shops and Palestinians who own or sell Israeli SIM cards a period of two weeks to get rid of the cards and return them to their original sources. After two weeks, they will face legal penalties for owning or selling the cards. However, the statement did not specify what these penalties would be.

Scores of Palestinians have switched to Israeli phone providers over the years largely due to the Israeli government barring Palestinian network providers from offering 3G services for alleged security concerns. Israeli phone providers also offer a cheaper option for some Palestinians.

However, the PA and Israel signed an agreement on Wednesday allowing Palestinian companies to offer their customers 3G.

The lack of access to 3G mobile technology in the occupied Palestinian territory has long provided an added obstacle to economic and technological growth. A report released in 2015 by the Palestinian think tank Al-Shabaka said that operators in Palestine lost an estimated $80 to $100 million annually as a result of the lack of 3G.

Meanwhile, according to a 2016 World Bank report, over 20 percent of the market volume in the occupied West Bank is captured by unauthorized Israeli operators, largely due to the fact that Palestinian companies do not have access to the more than 60 percent under Israeli military control known as Area C.

Unauthorized Israeli operators in the West Bank in part contributed to the Palestinian mobile sector losing more than $1 billion in revenue between 2013 and 2015.
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