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Officials prepare Rafah for prisoners making Hajj

Nov. 3, 2011 4:07 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 4, 2011 1:33 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Officials at the Rafah border crossing are facilitating arrangements for recently released prisoners to make the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, the interior ministry in Gaza said.

Crossings officials at Rafah terminal on Gaza's border with Egypt have been working since Wednesday evening to prepare passports and visas for the prisoners, the ministry said, adding that pilgrims would be able to leave Thursday evening or Friday morning.

Rafah crossing is the only entry and exit point from the Gaza Strip not controlled by Israel.

Palestinian Authority religious affairs minister Mahmoud Habash announced Wednesday that Saudi King Abdullah invited 477 released prisoners to perform Hajj, an Islamic obligation.

The prisoners were freed in October in a swap deal with Israel, and the Saudi king has offered to pay all their expenses for the journey, Habash said.
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