Israel reverses ban, says Gaza Christians can visit Christmas sites

Jerusalem: Christians in the Gaza Strip will be allowed to visit holy cities such as Bethlehem and Jerusalem at Christmas, Israel authorities said on Sunday, reversing a decision not to issue them permits.

Israel tightly restricts movements out of the Gaza Strip, territory controlled by Hamas, an Islamist group that it considers a terrorist organisation.

In a break from its usual Christmas holiday policy, Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians said on December 12 that in accordance with “security orders” Gaza Christians would be allowed to travel abroad but none would be permitted to go Israel or the occupied West Bank.

On Sunday, the liaison office, known as COGAT, announced on Twitter that its director has “extended the travel facilitations for the Christian population of Gaza for the Christmas holiday”.

As a result, COGAT said, “entry permits for Jerusalem and for the West Bank will be issued in accordance with security assessments and without regard to age”.

Read the article by Jeffrey Heller (Reuters) in The Sydney Morning Herald.