Restrictions Lifted for Pilgrimages to Judea and Samaria

JERUSALEM, FEB. 19, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Israeli officials are no longer asking visiting pilgrims to restrict their movements while in the Occupied Territories, AsiaNews reported.

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Evud Gol, the Israeli ambassador to Italy, told the news agency said the practice of handing out leaflets listing the restrictions has been discontinued at Tel Aviv airport.

Last month, Israeli military personnel were handing out welcome leaflets to visitors which specified that «entry into territories under control of the Palestinian Authority, in the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria (Area A), was prohibited without previous written authorization.»

As a result, pilgrims could not travel freely to places such as Bethlehem, Jericho, Emmaus or Qumran without risking serious sanctions, including deportation.

Given the consequent negative effects for tourism in the Holy Land, Israeli Tourism Minister Raphael Ben Hour on Wednesday issued a statement to revoke «the leaflet that prohibits the entrance of tourists in the territories of the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria.»

The text affirmed that «the entrance of tourists in the territories of Judea and Samaria is permitted in keeping with the norms and regulations» of the past.

The message does not mention Gaza, which is under special control in the wake of recent terrorist attacks.

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