RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — The Palestinian Authority (PA)’s customs service has seized 43 Israeli SIM cards from a shop in Ramallah city in the central occupied West Bank on Thursday, as Palestinian authorities enforced a ban on the use of Israeli SIM cards in the occupied Palestinian territory in April.
According to a statement released by the public relations of the PA’s customs service, the SIM cards were seized following reports that the shop owner was selling Israeli SIM cards.
Palestinian authorities headed to the shop and seized the cards. The customs department noted that the selling of Israeli SIM cards was an act that violated a 2004 Palestinian law that banned the trade of Israeli SIM cards in Palestinian territories under the jurisdiction of the PA.
, the PA’s public prosecution announced that the PA would begin to take “legal procedures” against any Palestinians who sell or own Israeli SIM cards, and gave Palestinians two weeks to get rid of their Israeli SIM cards.
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
in April allowing Palestinian companies to offer their customers 3G.
The lack of access to 3G mobile technology in the 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.
However, many Palestinians have expressed frustrations with the PA’s decision to enforce a ban on Israeli SIM cards, as the only two Palestinian companies, Jawwal and Wataniya, have come to represent an extension of the Palestinian elite’s corruption
, as both companies have close ties with the PA — which has been the target of criticism among Palestinians for years over allegations of widespread corruption and nepotism.