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Freed Palestinian Captives Leave Gaza for Haj But West Bankers Barred from Travelling to Perform Pilgrimage


Palestinians freed in deal with Israel go to Haj


Arab News, Nov 4, 2011 22:30

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip:

Gaza’s Hamas rulers say 300 Palestinian prisoners freed in a recent swap for a captured Israeli soldier will take part in Islam’s annual Haj pilgrimage.

Hamas border official Maher Abu Sabha says Saudi Arabia offered to fly them to the pilgrimage. He says they will cross from Gaza into Egypt late Friday to catch the flights.

Israel freed hundreds of Palestinians last month in the first stage of a swap for one Israeli soldier held by Gaza militants for more than five years. Many of those released were jailed for attacks that killed hundreds of civilians.

Occupation bars freed captives from travelling to perform pilgrimage

[ 04/11/2011 - 08:22 PM ]


The Israeli occupation authorities blocked recently freed captives from the West Bank from crossing to Jordan on their way to Makkah to perform pilgrimage.

According to those freed captives, they were travelling on coaches towards the King Hussain bridge border crossing, when their coaches were stopped at a military roadblock before reaching Jericho. They were told they would not be allowed to travel except for the two women Sana' Shehada and Alya' al-Ja'bari, the others were turned back.

They further said that the soldiers manning the roadblock had a list of their names and called their names out and told them they were banned from travelling.

The freed captives were told on Wednesday morning by the Awqaf Ministry that they should go to Ramallah to get their passports and join the pilgrims in the last minute. The main event of the pilgrimage takes place on Saturday.

PA: Released prisoners to travel late Friday

 05/11/2011 14:36 MECCA, Saudi Arabia (Ma’an) --

The Palestinian Authority minister of religious affairs said Friday that Palestinians in Gaza who are to join the pilgrimage to Mecca are to gather late Friday at the Rafah crossing.

Mahmoud Al-Habash said the detainees will depart Egypt on a special plane bound for Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage ahead of Eid Al-Adha. The plane will depart early Saturday from Cairo, another Palestinian official said.

The Saudi king is funding a special trip for prisoners released under an exchange deal for a captured Israeli soldier.

Habash told Ma'an in Mecca that Egyptian security cleared the Palestinians to cross from Gaza smoothly and quickly.

But Maher Abu Subha, head of the crossings authority in Gaza, said 262 of 295 passports were returned with visas. The released prisoners have already started their journey toward Rafah.

The undersecretary of the Ministry of Prisoners in Ramallah, Ziad Abu Ein, said a special plane paid for by the Saudi king was waiting to take the released Palestinians to Saudi Arabia.

Israeli authorities, meanwhile, barred passage of a bus taking released prisoners from the West Bank to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, passengers said.

Raed Amer, traveling with the group of 86 pilgrims, said Israeli forces stopped the buses and forced them to return to the city of Jericho.

Amer protested Israel's continued "punishment" of former detainees by banning them from praying in the holy city of Mecca during the Islamic holiday, which begins Sunday.

"It is not fair at all," he told Ma'an.

Palestinian border official Nathmi Mhanna said obstacles out of their control prevented the ex-prisoners from passing.

The Jericho-district Allenby crossing to Jordan, controlled by Israeli authorities, is the sole point of exit for most Palestinians in the West Bank to travel abroad.

Israel's border police did not return calls seeking comment.

The pilgrims were released as part of the first stage of deal which freed captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on Oct. 18, in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinians detained in Israeli jails.

Mahmoud Habash, the religious affairs minister, announced Wednesday that Saudi King Abdullah invited 477 Palestinians freed in the first stage of the deal to perform the Hajj pilgrimage, an Islamic obligation.

The king has offered to pay all their expenses for the journey, Habash said.

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