Israel cancels Jerusalem travel permits for Gaza Christians ahead of Orthodox Easter

Israel cancels Jerusalem travel permits for Gaza Christians ahead of Orthodox Easter
Israel has cancelled permits for Gazan Christians to leave the besieged enclave and visit their holy places in Jerusalem over Orthodox Easter this coming weekend.
2 min read
12 April, 2023
Gaza's Orthodox Christians have been denied permission to leave the enclave for Jerusalem over Easter [Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images]

Israel has cancelled over 700 permits allowing Christians from Gaza to visit holy sites in Jerusalem and the West Bank on Orthodox Easter, Gaza’s Saint Porphyrios Orthodox Church said on Monday. 

"Based on the instructions received from the brothers in the [Palestinian] Ministry of Civil Affairs - we inform you that the Easter permits have been cancelled by the Israeli side," the church said on its Facebook page.

Palestinians from Gaza need permits from the Israeli authorities to leave the enclave, which has been blockaded by Israel since 2007. 

The Israeli blockade has devastated Gaza's economy and plunged tens of thousands of people into poverty.

A total of 739 permits were cancelled, The New Arab's sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported. Gaza human rights group Al-Mezan denounced the cancellation as an attack on religious freedom.

Israeli authorities have made no official announcement and gave no reason for the cancellation. The church said it received the news from the Palestinian Civil Affairs Ministry. 

Roughly 1,600 Christians live in Gaza alongside over 2 million Muslims. Most of them are Greek Orthodox and celebrate Easter this coming Sunday, 16 April.

The enclave is home to three churches - the Saint Porphyrios Orthodox Church,  the Gaza Baptist Church for Evangelical and Protestant Christians and the Roman Catholic Holy Family Church.

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Israeli authorities have also imposed restrictions on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem - where Christians believe Jesus’ tomb lies.

The Greek Orthodox Church slammed the "heavy-handed restrictions" on Wednesday, and said it would limit access to the Holy Fire ceremony, which is the most important event in the Orthodox calendar. 

Israel regularly imposes restrictions on Palestinian worshippers. Its forces impose harsh limits on Muslims going to Jerusalem from the West Bank during the holy month of Ramadan, and also often limit access to holy Christian sites. 

This week, Israeli forces protected extremists storming Jerusalem's Al Aqsa mosque complex - the third holiest site in Islam - and beat and arrested hundreds of worshippers.