Hajj 2023: Saudi Arabia to host 1,000 Palestinian pilgrims from families of the deceased, wounded and prisoners
The kingdom will host Palestinian "families of martyrs, prisoners and those who are injured" as part of the King Salman bin Abdul Aziz’s Haj Guests Programme, which is overseen and carried out annually by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance, said The Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
Hatem al-Bakri, the Palestinian Minister of Endowments and Religious Affairs, praised the move, saying: "Saudi Arabia's support for the Palestinians is generous in all fields, especially serving and caring for the pilgrims," according to Saudi news agency SPA.
"This matter has a great impact on the families of the martyrs, prisoners and wounded in Palestine, and comes within the framework of the Kingdom's permanent support for the Palestinian people and their just cause," Bakri said.
Another official, Sheikh Abdul Latif Al Sheikh, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Islamic Affairs praised the Gulf's monarch for "continuous care and support towards families of wounded or martyred Palestinians".
The programme, which has benefitted thousands of pilgrims since its inception, will include all Hajj rituals, including visits to Al-Masjid An-Nabawi, also known as the Prophet’s mosque.
Palestinians who wish to journey to Saudi Arabia for the Muslim pilgrimage, usually travel through third-party countries in order to arrive in Saudi Arabia, due to Israeli restrictions on Palestinian travel.
Gazans, for example, must travel to Egypt first should they wish to make it to the Gulf kingdom.
Saudi Arabia is reportedly in talks with Israel to allow for direct Hajj flights for its Muslim minority wishing to perform the pilgrimage, which could include Palestinians from the occupied territories.
Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have any diplomatic relations, though Tel Aviv has made several moves towards normalisation with Riyadh. Saudi Arabia, however, insists that an independent Palestinian state must be created before diplomatic relations are established.
Saudi Arabia welcomes millions of Muslim worshippers from all corners of the world every year to carry out the Hajj pilgrimage, which usually falls before the holy Eid al-Adha festival.
Hajj season is expected to begin on 26 June this year.
The annual Muslim pilgrimage contributes greatly to the Gulf kingdom’s economy, raking in billions of dollars annually, as well as creating thousands of jobs.
Earlier this year, the Saudi’s Hajj and Umrah Ministry said it would host "pre-Covid-19 numbers" this year, following the removal of virus restrictions which limited the number of pilgrims in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
In 2019, some 2.6 million Muslims performed the pilgrimage.