Israel allows Gazans travel through Israeli territory to Mecca

Israeli approval was given at the last minute because the hajj ends on Tuesday with the beginning of the four-day Eid al-Adha feast.

Israel allows Gazans travel through Israeli territory to Mecca

Israel agreed to let about 900 Gaza pilgrims travel through Israeli territory en route to a Muslim pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, Palestinian and Israeli officials said.

Israeli officials said the passage through the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing was under way at midday, but couldn't specify how many Gazans had actually crossed.

Hussein El Sheikh, head of the civil affairs department in the government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the 900 pilgrims would be let through Erez by Monday morning, if not earlier.

The pilgrimage to the Saudi holy city of Mecca, known as the hajj, is an obligation every able-bodied Muslim is expected to carry out once in a lifetime. But the visits has been encumbered because both Israel and Egypt have all but sealed their borders with the territory to passenger traffic.

Several weeks ago, Egypt opened its border to hundreds of Gaza pilgrims — the first time Gazans were permitted to enter Egyptian territory since the Hamas takeover.

The pilgrims traveling on Sunday were to drive in a convoy through Israel to the West Bank town of Jericho, and from there to Jordan, where they were to board flights to Saudi Arabia, El Sheikh said.

The Israeli approval was given at the last minute. The pilgrimage, or hajj, ends on Tuesday with the beginning of the four-day Eid al-Adha feast.

Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 16 Aralık 2007, 16:59
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