Sunday, May 19
Latest News
  1. UNRWA: 4 Palestinian children killed in attack on Syria refugee camp
  2. Israeli forces attack, injure Palestinian youths in Jerusalem
  3. Germany to condemn BDS movement as 'anti-Semitic'
  4. FM to UK Parliament: Two-state solution could reach point of no return
  5. World Bank to grant $400m in aid to combat famine in Yemen
  6. Israel reduces Gaza's permitted fishing zone, attacks fishermen
  7. Minor among 7 Palestinians detained by Israeli forces
  8. EU to examine 'incitement to hate' in Palestinian textbooks
  9. Incendiary balloons spark fires in southern Israel
  10. FM urges ICC to start immediate investigation of Palestinian situation

Rafah still closed; Gazan pilgrims registered in West Bank will not leave with those registered in Strip

Nov. 29, 2008 1:08 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 29, 2008 1:08 P.M.)
Gaza/Bethlehem - Ma'an - The de facto police department in Gaza announced Saturday that Rafah crossing is still closed and no pilgrims have passed through to Egypt despite assurances from West Bank and Gaza governments.

The department explained that visas for the pilgrims were not ready as of Saturday night, and added that many passports were not even in Gaza (they are processed off site). They appealed to Saudi authorities to help expediate the visa authorization process so pilgrims would be able to make the Hajj.

The police department did not mention an earlier report that said Gazan pilgrims preparing for the Hajj who registered in the Ramallah office would not be permitted to leave Gaza with those who registered in the Gaza City offices.

The report was the latest in a baffling back-and-forth between the de facto Gaza government and the caretaker Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank over rhetorical and administrative authority with regards to Hajj pilgrims in Gaza seeking passage through Rafah crossing.

The information came from an Al-Jazeera interview with de facto Minister of Awqaf Taleb Abu Sha'ar on Saturday afternoon. The minister denied reports that Rafah crossing had been opened, and said Cairo must call the de facto interior ministry in order to coordinate the border opening. Cairo should not get its news about Gaza from the papers, he added.

There have been dozens of announcements this week regarding the Hajj pilgrims' passage out of Gaza from both governments, each of which has promised passage to pilgrims.

Media outlets affiliated with the PA reported that de facto Hamas security forces "assaulted" pilgrims headed to the Rafah crossing on Saturday, although the report was categorically denied by senior Hamas leader Salah Al-Bardaweel.

The Hamas leader said that pilgrims had not even "left for the Rafah crossing yet."

Other media reports stated that 13 Hajj pilgrims sustained injuries on Saturday morning as de facto government police attacked them with clubs while they were en route to the Rafah crossing.

Reports also claimed that pilgrims were attacked because they went to the crossing upon directives received from the West Bank-based Palestinian caretaker government. The PA had previously announced an agreement with Egyptian authorities to allow the pilgrims through the crossing.

Responding to that announcement, the Gaza-based de facto Interior Ministry announced that the Rafah crossing would remain closed until information was made available regarding its opening.

"[By] telling citizens that the crossing is open; the Ramallah government is tricking them," said a statement from the de facto Interior Ministry on Saturday.

Egypt, however, announced on Friday that the Rafah crossing would be open for three days starting Saturday in order to let Gazan pilgrims cross and travel to Saudi Arabia.

Gaza's de facto Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh maintained during his Friday address in Gaza City that his government would allow pilgrims from Gaza to travel through the Rafah crossing whether their registration came through the PA Endowment Ministry in Ramallah or through the de facto government in Gaza.

"We'll allow this despite our reservations," Haniyeh said on Friday.

The ongoing crisis originated over disagreements between both the de facto government and the caretaker government over choosing pilgrims by lottery. Both governments registered pilgrims and made their own selections but as a result, the departure of pilgrims has been delayed ever since.

Seven days remain before the Day of Mount Arafat, which is a major element of completing the Hajj in Mecca.

Earlier, it was reported that Hajj pilgrims from the West Bank arrived in Mecca, according to Palestinian Minister of Endowments Jamal Bawatna.

Bawatnah asserted that his ministry made "unprecedented arrangements" this year to guarantee the best facilities and services to Hajj pilgrims. They are reportedly staying in five-star hotels close to the Haram in Mecca, as well as in special buildings where they can access the Ka'ba easily.

He affirmed that the special arrangements for the pilgrimage were made in direct coordination with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

***Updated 19:11 Bethlehem time

Powered By: HTD Technologies
Ma'an News Agency
All rights reserved © 2005-2015