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Church of the Nativity deportees ask to return to their homes

Fourteen years after they were deported from their homes, the Palestinians who were besieged in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and then deported to Gaza and other countries have requested they be returned home, Quds Press reported yesterday.

In 2002, the Palestinian Authority (PA), international bodies and Israel reached a deal to deport 26 Palestinians who sought refuge in the Church of the Nativity to the Gaza Strip and Europe for two years. Israel has since refused to allow them to return.

The deportees in the Gaza Strip staged a protest in front of the UN headquarters in the Strip. They raised placards reading: "We call for PA President Mahmoud Abbas to work for our return."

"For how long will this suffering continue?" Muayyad Al-Janazreh, one of the 26 "Nativity Church deportees," said to reporters during the rally.

He called for Abbas to urgently work for their return to their homes. He also called for the international community, human rights groups and the International Red Cross to put pressure on Israel to commit to its pledge of allowing them to return after two years.

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