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Hundreds of Gaza Christians travel to West Bank for Easter

April 17, 2014 10:40 A.M. (Updated: April 19, 2014 9:09 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Hundreds of Christians in the Gaza Strip left the coastal territory on Thursday to celebrate Easter in the occupied West Bank and Israel.

Palestinian officials said that Israeli authorities issued 600 permits to Christians to leave the besieged Gaza Strip.

Around 100 Christians crossed the Erez crossing early Thursday to travel to Bethlehem and Nazareth, where they will stay for a week to celebrate Easter.

Israel only issued permits to Palestinians over the age of 35 and under 16, officials added.

Earlier Thursday, Christian dignitaries and representatives of different Christian organizations in Jerusalem held a news conference in the Orthodox Club in the Old City to denounce ongoing restrictions against freedom of worship.

Speakers at the conference, including Orthodox Archbishop Atallah Hanna, former Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, and the former PA ambassador to France, Hind Khoury, denounced Israeli restrictions on Christian access to the Jerusalem.

The Christian dignitaries also slammed Israeli assaults against Al-Aqsa Mosque highlighting that Muslims and Christians in Palestine are all Palestinian citizens under Israeli occupation.

The speakers urged Palestinian-Christians to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher despite the restrictions, urging worshipers to "refuse to be treated as aliens in our own homeland."
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