Israel bars Gaza’s Christians from visiting Bethlehem and Jerusalem at Christmas – Middle East Monitor

Christians within the Gaza Strip won’t be allowed to go to holy cities resembling Bethlehem and Jerusalem to rejoice Christmas this yr, Israeli authorities stated on Thursday, Reuters experiences.

Gazan Christians might be granted permits to journey overseas however none might be allowed to go to Israel and the occupied West Financial institution, dwelling to many websites holy to Christians, a spokeswoman for Israel’s army liaison to the Palestinians stated.

Israel tightly restricts actions out of the Gaza Strip, territory managed by Hamas, an Islamist group that it considers a terrorist group.

The spokeswoman stated that following “safety orders”, Gazans could be allowed to journey overseas through Israel’s Allenby Bridge border crossing with Jordan however to not go to cities in Israel or the West Financial institution.

Gaza has solely round 1,000 Christians – most of them Greek Orthodox – amongst a inhabitants of two million within the slender coastal strip.

This yr’s resolution is a break with standard coverage. Final yr, Israel granted permits for near 700 Gazan Christians to journey to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth and different holy cities that draw hundreds of pilgrims every vacation season.

Hanna: Christians should defend Palestine 

Gisha, an Israeli rights group, stated the ban factors “to the intensifying of entry restrictions between the 2 elements of the Palestinian territory,” calling it “a deepening of Israel’s separation coverage” for the West Financial institution and Gaza.

The Palestinians search to arrange a state within the West Financial institution and Gaza, territory Israel captured within the 1967 Center East struggle.

Israel previously has defended its restrictions on Gazans touring to the West Financial institution, saying many Palestinians from Gaza keep on illegally when granted short-term permits.

In Gaza, one Christian girl voiced hope Israel would reverse its coverage so she may go to her household within the West Financial institution metropolis of Ramallah.

“Yearly I pray they may give me a allow so I can rejoice Christmas and see my household,” Randa El-Amash, 50, stated, including: “It is going to be extra joyful to rejoice in Bethlehem and in Jerusalem.”

Christian leaders in Jerusalem condemned the transfer, however added that they’re interesting to Israeli authorities to reverse the choice.

“Different individuals around the globe are allowed to journey to Bethlehem. We expect Gaza’s Christians ought to have that proper, too,” stated Wadie Abu Nassar, an adviser to native church leaders.

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