Israel will grant permits to Christians living in the Gaza Strip to visit Jerusalem and the West Bank during the holiday of Christmas, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said Monday.
The statement came ten days after a COGAT spokesperson said that Christians in the Hamas-controlled enclave were barred from visiting holy cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem this holiday season. That was met with immediate backlash by Christian Palestinian leaders as well as Gisha, an Israeli human rights group that monitors freedom of movement of people coming in and out of Gaza.
“Other people around the world are allowed to travel to Bethlehem. We think Gaza’s Christians should have that right, too,” Wadie Abu Nassar, an adviser to local church leaders, told Reuters at the time.
There are around 1,000 Christians living in Gaza, mostly Greek Orthodox, among a population of 2 million people.
Following the angry reactions, COGAT posted an update on its website, saying would grant a maximum of 500 permits to Christian from Gaza to travel to Jerusalem and the West Bank “in accordance with security checks.”
However, the posts were removed a few hours later after its spokesperson said they were mistakenly uploaded.
“Entry permits for Jerusalem and for the Judea and Samaria area will be issued in accordance with security assessments and without regard to age,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.