Thousands of Gazans barred from Hajj amid Israel’s takeover of Rafah crossing

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Rafah crossing is Gaza’s only window to outside world that is not controlled by Israel

Thousands of Palestinians have been barred from performing the Hajj pilgrimage due to Israel’s occupation of the Rafah crossing, the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs said on Wednesday.

“Preventing thousands of Gazans from performing the Hajj is a clear violation of freedom of worship and international humanitarian law,” it added in a statement.

The Hajj, the pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest site Kaaba in Mecca, is one of the five pillars of Islam. Muslims are required to perform it at least once in their life if they have the means to do so.

“This is a new war crime added to the series of crimes committed by the (Israeli) occupation against our people and places of worship,’’ the ministry said.

The Israeli army captured the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing on the border with Egypt on May 7, the territory’s only window to the outside world that is not controlled by Israel.

The ministry called on Egypt and Saudi Arabia to pressure Israel “to enable the people of Gaza to perform the Hajj ritual for this year.”

Israel launched a ground offensive on May 6 in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, where more than 1.5 million Palestinians have sheltered from Tel Aviv’s war on the enclave.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) estimates that more than 800,000 people have fled the city since the start of the Israeli assault.

Israel continued its brutal offensive on the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7, 2023 despite a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire in the enclave.

More than 35,700 Palestinians have been killed, the vast majority of whom have been women and children, and nearly 80,000 others injured since last October following an attack by the Palestinian group Hamas.

More than seven months into the Israeli war, vast swathes of Gaza lay in ruins amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water and medicine.

Israel is accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice, which has ordered it to ensure that its forces do not commit acts of genocide and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

source: Middle East 

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