Palestinian Christians in the Gaza Strip have charged Israeli occupation authorities with issuing Christmas travel permits to some family members but not others.
"Last year, 300 permits were given to the Christians in Gaza to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem, but only to people over the age of 55," said Fr Mario da Silva, Parish Priest of Gaza, speaking to Independent Catholic News.
"This year, 500 permits were approved by Israel. But until this moment, we have only received around 250 permits for people over the age of 55 and between the ages of 16 and 35. However, children under the age of 16 were not included."
Fr Mario said:
Israel is using a policy of separation between parents and children. It gives a permit to the father but deprives the mother and the children of the same document. Thus, the family decides not to go and stay together in Gaza.
The report noted that "for Palestinian Christians of Gaza, obtaining a permit to celebrate Christmas and Easter in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, presents an opportunity to escape their horrific reality; an act that Israel fears and rejects by placing more restrictions on their travel."
While foreign tourists "enjoy and make pilgrimages to religious shrines in the Holy Land as their integral human right to freedom of religion, indigenous Palestinians are still slapped with restrictive privileges in the form of military permits to do the same."
"Gaza's Christians should not require permits to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem," said Fr Mario. "It is their right to travel and pray without restrictions!"