Christians living in the Gaza strip will now be issued travel permits to visit Jerusalem and West Bank for Christmas according to a statement made by Israel on December 22. It was not clear until December 22 whether Israel would issue permits to the Christian community living in the Hamas-controlled territory.
According to reports, The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), said that travel permits will be given after proper security assessments and without a restriction on age. The Israeli defence body said that Israel was still not sure about issuing the permits to a large number of people, adding that it was entertaining individual requests. The defence body further added that it was also allowing 100 Christians living in Gaza to travel.
However, in the past couple of years, Israel has issued travel permits to a lot of people belonging to the Christian community living in the Gaza strip to make trips to religious sites and be with their families living in Israel and West Bank. According to reports, Gaza houses approximately 1,000 Christians as compared to the population of 2 million people living in the territory. Many people belonging to the Gaza Christian community are Greek orthodox and others are Catholics. According to reports, the Christians living in Gaza are considered a protected minority community by the Hamas movement. However, Christians have been a target for Islamic extremists for the past couple of years.
The United States announced a reversal of its decades-long policy on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, calling the occupation not necessarily a violation of international law. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informed that the US no longer agrees with the 1978 State Department legal opinion that held the occupied territories “inconsistent with international law”.
“Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace,” Pompeo said.
“The hard truth is that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace,” he added.
The move was welcomed by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said that US President Donald Trump has corrected a “historic injustice”. Netanyahu said that the decision does not prevent negotiations and on the contrary, “It advances peace because it is not possible to build true peace based on lies”. Opposition leader Benny Gantz applauded the statement of Pompeo saying the fate of the settlements should be determined by agreements that meet security requirements and promote peace.
I spoke on the phone with US President Donald Trump and told him that he had corrected a historic injustice— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) November 18, 2019
Somebody needed to say a simple truth, and President Trump did this, just as he did with the recognition of the Golan Heights and the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem
(With inputs from agencies)