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Hamas still holding passports of 60 Gaza pilgrims

Oct. 8, 2013 8:53 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 9, 2013 9:14 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – Sixty Palestinians from the Gaza Strip are still unable to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj pilgrimage after security services of the Hamas-run government seized their passports.

The 60 pilgrims are immediate family members of Palestinians killed by Israel who were selected to perform Hajj at the expense of the Saudi king, a majority of whom are elderly people.

Speaking to Ma’an via telephone, some of the pilgrims appealed to people of influence and conscience to intervene and convince Hamas to allow them to travel so they can catch up with others and perform Hajj before it’s too late.

A wife of one person killed by Israel told Ma’an that the Hamas-run government seized her passport along with 59 others denying them entry to Egypt without giving explanation.

When they went to office of the Hamas government’s minster of endowments, Ismail Radwan, to complain, he told them that their problem "was not with Gaza but with the Ramallah-based minister of endowment Mahmoud al-Habbash.”

He added, according to the caller, “Go to Abu Mazen (President Mahmoud Abbas) and ask him about the problem and the solution, because we have nothing to do with your problem.”

Another caller, an elderly man among those denied travel, told Ma’an that “Hamas wanted to include 40 of its supporters on the list of pilgrims whose Hajj trip is funded by Saudi Arabia, but the minister of endowment Mahmoud al-Habbash approved only 20 of them.”

Only then, he added, when all 40 Hamas-affiliated candidates were included in the Saudi grant, the Hamas-run government will allow other pilgrims to leave to Saudi Arabia.

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