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Israel to restrict entry of Gaza Christians for Easter

A Christian leader in Gaza said the restrictions meant that only about one-third of the community’s 1,100 members would be allowed into Israel to celebrate.

Israeli authorities have said they will block most of Gaza’s small Christian community from entering Israel for Easter celebrations, over security concerns.

Israel maintains a blockade over the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and restricts entry from the territory.

But it often eases the restrictions during religious holidays to allow Gaza’s residents to visit holy sites in Jerusalem or to visit relatives in Israel or the West Bank.

Cogat, the defence body that oversees Palestinian civilian affairs, said it would let only Christians aged 55 and older and children under the age of 16 enter Israel for Easter, which is celebrated by Catholics on Sunday and Orthodox Christians the following week.

It said the restrictions were needed after previous cases in which Gazan visitors overstayed their permitted time in Israel.

A Christian leader in Gaza said the restrictions meant that only about one-third of the community’s 1,100 members would be allowed into Israel to celebrate.

He said he was disappointed because his children would not be able to see their aunts in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Wadie Abunassar, a Catholic Church official, called the restrictions “very sad” because Easter is a family holiday.

He said it was “not reasonable” to allow a mother and father to enter Israel, while “leaving their children back in Gaza” and urged Israel to reconsider.

“If people want to leave, they don’t want to leave for a honeymoon,” he said. “It is for a family trip.”

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