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LARNACA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, (Cyprus): A group of Palestinians from the occupied West Bank flew abroad from an airport in Israel’s Negev desert for the first time Monday, arriving in Cyprus under a newly launched pilot scheme.

“This is the first trip for us from Ramon” airport, said Sofiane, a Palestinian pharmacist who declined to provide his surname.

“We got this opportunity for the first time as Palestinians,” he said, adding that the group was made up of pharmacists from around the West Bank.

An AFP correspondent said around 25 Palestinians arrived on Israel’s Arkia airlines flight from Ramon airport, near the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat, into Larnaca airport on Monday afternoon.

A spokeswoman for the Israel Airports Authority had earlier told AFP that around 40 Palestinians were expected to be on board.

While residents of Israeli settlements in the West Bank can travel abroad from Israel’s main international airport near Tel Aviv, the vast majority of Palestinians from the territory are banned from doing so. Palestinians must instead make an overland crossing from the West Bank to Jordan, before boarding a flight in the country’s capital Amman. “We were supposed to fly from Jordan but they managed to arrange a flight from the airport in Ramon,” Sofiane said, referring to the travel agency that organised the trip.

“The security check was tricky, especially for the women,” he added, but “things moved smoothly and here we are.”

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