Palestinians barred from pilgrimage

Israeli authorities have barred between 360 and 386 Palestinians from travelling from the Gaza Strip to the city of Makka in Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage (the Hajj).

    Palestinians allowed to leave, wave goodbye to well-wishers

    Palestinian authorities received a list from Israeli authorities with the names of the pilgrims on it, including women and elderly men, and said Israel was creating "false pretexts" to keep them from leaving the Gaza Strip.
    According to information gathered by the Palestine Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), Israeli authorities provided the Palestinian Ministry of Civil Affairs with a list of 386 pilgrims from the Gaza Strip, claiming that they would be prohibited from travelling to Saudi Arabia through Rafah Terminal for security reasons.

    AFP reports cite a Palestinian security source as saying 360 Palestinians were barred.

    No comment was immediately available from the Israeli army.
    The total number of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip intending to travel for the Hajj this year is 6210, says the PCHR.

    The organisation adds that in 2003, Israeli authorities prevented 836 out of the 5500 pilgrims from the Gaza Strip from travelling to Saudi Arabia.

    In a statement, the PCHR, said "this denial of access to the Islamic holy sites in Saudi Arabia represents a clear violation of the right to freedom of religion, as enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as numerous other provisions of international human rights and humanitarian law."

    Right to freedom of religion

    Approx 2 million Muslims
    complete the Hajj each year

    The PCHR has called upon the international community to immediately intervene to ensure the Palestinians' right to freedom of religion.

    The annual pilgrimage (hajj) has already drawn more than 368,000 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, according to official figures released on Tuesday.
    Last year, approximately 2 million Muslims completed the ritual, which is one of the five pillars of Islam, required of Muslims at least once in their lifetime, if they can afford it.

    To get to Saudi Arabia, Gaza Strip pilgrims first have to cross into Egypt through the Israeli-controlled checkpoint in Rafah.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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