- Title: Gaza Christians say few Israeli permits granted for Christmas travel
- Date: 24th December 2019
- Summary: EREZ CROSSING, GAZA (DECEMBER 24, 2019) (REUTERS) ELDERLY CHRISTIAN BEING ESCORTED BY PALESTINIAN SECURITY FORCES AT EREZ CROSSING PEOPLE SITTING HAIFA ASSALFITI, 62-YEAR-OLD CHRISTIAN FROM GAZA, TALKING TO SECURITY MAN AS SHE AWAITS CROSSING THE BORDER EN ROUTE TO BETHLEHEM SECURITY PERSONNEL ASSISTING ELDERLY CHRISTIAN (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) HAIFA ASSALFITI, A 62-YEAR-OLD CHRISTIAN FROM GAZA, SAYING: "They issued permits for old people, not the young, who are sitting at home. (Question: Did you hope to leave with your children?) My son, my daughter and my daughter-in-law didn't get permits to go (to Bethlehem). They only gave them to us." ASSALFITI SHOWING HER AND HER HUSBAND'S PERMIT (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) HAIFA ASSALFITI, A 62-YEAR-OLD CHRISTIAN FROM GAZA, SAYING: "They (her children) are angry, they want us to be with them - to either go together or stay home together. But they (Israel) gave us a permit so we are going." ASSALFITI AND HER HUSBAND RIDING A CART THROUGH CROSSING GAZA CITY, GAZA (DECEMBER 23, 2019) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF THE HOLY FAMILY CHURCH IN GAZA CROSSES ON THE MAIN GATE OF THE CHURCH FATHER GABRIEL ROMANELLI, PARISH PRIEST OF HOLY FAMILY AT CHURCH, SEATED AT CHURCH CRUCIFIX (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) FATHER GABRIEL ROMANELLI, PARISH PRIEST OF HOLY FAMILY CHURCH, SAYING: "We were officially informed yesterday that they gave 55 permits but there are still 950 (Christians in Gaza) who are waiting to get permit to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem." EREZ CROSSING, GAZA (DECEMBER 24, 2019) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF PEOPLE QUEUING UP AT CROSSING CARS ARRIVING AT EREZ CROSSING VARIOUS OF BARRIER BETWEEN GAZA AND ISRAEL
- Embargoed: 7th January 2020 12:09
- Keywords: Christians Christmas Erez crossing Gaza Hamas Israel
- Location: EREZ CROSSING AND GAZA CITY, GAZA
- City: EREZ CROSSING AND GAZA CITY, GAZA
- Country: Palestinian Territories
- Topics: Religion/Belief,Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA001BBC4NK7
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Fewer than half of Christians from Gaza who sought Israeli permits to visit holy cities such as Bethlehem and Jerusalem at Christmas have so far had their applications granted, members of the small community and Palestinian officials said on Tuesday (December 24)
Israel had said on Sunday (December 22) it would admit Christians from the Gaza Strip, a territory it keeps under blockade, reversing a Dec. 12 announcement that barred them on security grounds - a departure from its usual Christmas policy.
Father Gabriel Romanelli of the Gaza Holy Family Church said on Monday (December 23) that 55 permits have been issued to members of his Latin community.
On Tuesday, Christmas Eve, Palestinian border officials said 316 permits had been issued for Christians to leave Gaza for Jerusalem and in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Church leaders said they had requested 800 such permits.
Gaza has around 1,000 Christians, most of them from the Greek Orthodox denomination who celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, amid a mainly Muslim population of 2 million Palestinians.
"They issued permits for old people, not the young," said Haifa Assalfiti, 62, before she crossed the Erez border terminal into Israel en route to Bethlehem with her husband.
"My son, my daughter and my daughter-in-law didn't get permits... They are angry," she told Reuters.
A spokeswoman for Cogat, the Israeli liaison agency to the Palestinian territories, did not immediately return a call for comment.
Israel tightly restricts movements out of the Gaza Strip, a coastal territory controlled by Hamas Islamists who are deemed a terrorist group by Israel and Western powers.
Last year, ahead of Christmas Day on Dec. 25, Israel granted permits for close to 700 Gaza Christians to travel to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth and other holy cities that draw thousands of pilgrims each holiday season.
(Production: Arafat Barbakh, Nehad Khalil, Roleen Tafakji)
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