Israel Lets Gazans Leave for Hajj

December 16, 2007

Author: Staff Writer

Source: BBC News

Almost 500 Palestinians have been allowed to leave the Gaza Strip to make the Muslim pilgrimage of Hajj to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Israel has confirmed.

The Palestinians left Gaza on Sunday by the Erez checkpoint, controlled by Israel and usually closed to civilians.

The 491 pilgrims were taken by bus to the West Bank, before heading to Jordan and then a flight to Saudi Arabia.

Israel described the decision to allow the group to make the pilgrimage as a goodwill gesture to the Palestinians.

A second group of roughly the same number is due to leave Gaza on Monday, said Ashraf al-Ajrami, Palestinian Minister for Prisoners' Affairs.