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Israel bans Gaza Christians from entry to West Bank for Easter

Israeli authorities denied to issue holiday entry permits for hundreds of Palestinian Christians in the besieged Gaza Strip, who were planning to visit holy sites in both Jerusalem and Bethlehem, during the Easter holiday and Palm Sunday.

Palestinian Christians from Gaza who were planning on visiting the holy sites or their families in the occupied West Bank and Israel, will not be able to do so this Easter holiday.

Israel allowed only 200 Christians from Gaza, who are over 55-years-old to travel only to the Jordanian Kingdom through the Allenby border crossing, and did not issue permits for those hoping to visit the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem City and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in East Jerusalem.

Israeli rights group Gisha reported complaints against the Israeli authorities regarding the restrictions imposed on Christians who want to travel during the Jewish holiday of Passover, also known as Pesach, which coincides with Easter.

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

Gisha added, “Imposing such sweeping restrictions on movement cannot be justified by security needs.”

The rights group also stressed in a statement last week, “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.”

Most Christians celebrate Easter on Sunday April 21st, while Orthodox Christians, who follow a different calendar, will mark it on April 28th. Many Gaza Christians belong to the Greek Orthodox community, which will celebrate the holiday on the latter date.

According to a February 2018 report issued by the Palestinian Authority Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), about 1,138 Palestinian Christians live in Gaza and almost all of them live in Gaza City, with many of them having family members in the West Bank.

Despite the travel ban, Palestinian Christians in Gaza celebrate Easter in a church in Gaza City: