Israel Bans 86 Freed Palestinians Prisoners From Hajj To Mecca

Israel Bans 86 Freed Palestinians Prisoners From Hajj To Mecca

Arīh̨ā : Palestine | Nov 04, 2011 at 12:47 PM PDT
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Israeli occupation authorities on Friday barred passage of a bus taking released prisoners from the West Bank to make pilgrimage to Mecca, passengers said.

Raed Amer, traveling with the group of 86 pilgrims recently freed from Israeli jails in a exchange deal with Hamas, 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 Eid al-Adha, which begins Sunday.

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.

Palestinian Authority religious affairs minister Mahmoud Habash 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 Saudi king has offered to pay all their expenses for the journey, Habash said.

Gaza's interior ministry said earlier it was preparing the Rafah crossing to Egypt for the passage of pilgrims to Mecca.

According to Gaza's interior ministry website, crossings officials at Rafah terminal on Gaza's border with Egypt have been working since Wednesday evening to prepare passports and visas for the prisoners, the ministry said, adding that pilgrims would be able to leave Thursday evening or Friday morning.

Rafah crossing is the only entry and exit point from the Gaza Strip not controlled by Israel.

Next Sunday, November the 6th, Muslims around the world will celebrate Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice. In many Muslim countries, to mark the feast, families slaughter sheep, goats and cows in remembrance of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son at God's command.

In Mecca, where the Hajj pilgrimage is currently under way, pilgrims perform the ritual of throwing pebbles at a stone pillar representing the devil.

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Israel Bans 86 Freed Palestinians Prisoners From Hajj To Mecca
photo of Masjid-al-Haram in Makkah and the Ka'bah during Hajj.AFP
saleh1966 is based in Gaza, Ġazzah, Palestine, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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