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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hamas preventing Gazans from going to Hajj

Hajj is the once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca that is obligatory on all Muslims who can afford it.

Last year Hamas allowed thousands of Gazans to go to Mecca...including some terrorists, some of whom reportedly went to Iran.

This year, the pilgrims are in the middle of a Hamas/Fatah spat, and Hamas is forcibly stopping them from crossing the Rafah border:
Thousands of Palestinian pilgrims seeking to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj have been blocked from leaving the Gaza Strip in the latest twist of the territory's internal political divisions.

Security forces for Hamas, the Palestinian faction in control of Gaza, reportedly turned pilgrims back from the Rafah border crossing into Egypt on Saturday.

The fate of Gaza's pilgrims has been in question for weeks amid continued political jockeying between Hamas and rival Palestinian faction Fatah.

A number of pilgrims told Al Jazeera they had been beaten by Hamas security forces for trying to cross.

While Egypt has mostly kept its border closed to the besieged strip since Hamas took control of the territory more than a year ago, Egyptian officials insisted that the border post had been opened for three days to allow pilgrims through.

At issue was also Saudi Arabia's recognition of the Hamas government structure in Gaza as legitimate.

Around 3,000 Gazans applied for Hajj visas through the ministry of religious affairs based in Ramallah, West Bank, while another 3,000 applied through the Gaza-based ministry.

Saudi Arabia is said to have it granted visas only to Palestinians who registered for Hajj through the Ramallah offices of the Palestinian Authority, which is run by Fatah.

Hamas has threatened and beaten journalists who have reported this story.

And Hamas preachers angrily attacked Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and Egyptian president Mubarak as "traitors" during Friday sermons, to the point of veiled threats against the Saudi regime, saying that this might be the "straw that breaks the camel's back" in getting Saudi extremists to topple the government.