Israel bans Gaza Christians from going to Jerusalem, Bethlehem for Easter

Jerusalem (QNN) – Israeli occupation authorities refused to issue travel permits for hundreds of Palestinian Christians from Gaza who planned to visit holy sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem during Passover, Safa news agency reported yesterday.

Israel only allowed only 200 Christians from Gaza, who are over 55 years old, to travel to Jordan only and did not issue permits for those wishing to visit the Church of Nativity in occupied Bethlehem or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in occupied Jerusalem.

“I’ve been applying for permits over the past three years, but nothing has come out of it,” said Samir Abu Daoud, 65, from Gaza, who has a son and grandchildren in Ramallah. Although he meets Israel’s criteria for travel, he has yet to hear back regarding his permit request.

“Imposing such sweeping restrictions on movement cannot be justified by security needs,” said Miriam Marmur, a media coordinator with Gisha, an Israeli rights group that focuses on freedom of movement in and out of Gaza. The decision is based on political considerations, added Marmur, and the limitations are part of Israel’s “separation policy,” which seeks to widen the divide between geographically disconnected Palestinian communities.

“This is a flagrant violation of the freedom of movement, freedom of worship and freedom of enjoying family life for the Christians in Gaza,” Gisha said, noting that Gaza is an example of a “wider Israeli racist policy”.

Gisha said that this measure aims to deepen the division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

“Israel is increasingly restricting movement between Gaza and the West Bank so as to deepen the separation between Palestinians torn between parts of the occupied Palestinian territory, and by doing so, advance and legitimize its annexation of the West Bank,” Gisha wrote in a statement this week.

While Israel officially retreated from Gaza in 2005, it has placed the strip under a strict blockade, controlling many aspects of life there, including movement of people and goods. Palestinians there can travel in and out in one of two ways: through the Rafah Crossing with Egypt, or the Erez Crossing with Israel. Until recently, Egypt would only open Rafah intermittently, and in March, for the first time since December 2014, it allowed Muslims from Gaza to travel to Mecca for the Umrah pilgrimage through Rafah.

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