Israel to restrict entry of Gaza Christians for Easter

Israel sometimes eases restrictions during religious holidays to allow Gazans to visit holy sites in Jerusalem.
Updated 31 March 2018

Israel to restrict entry of Gaza Christians for Easter

JERUSALEM: Israeli authorities said on Thursday that they have decided to block most of Gaza’s small Christian community from entering Israel for Easter celebrations, citing security concerns.
Israel maintains a blockade over the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and restricts entry from the territory. But it often eases the restrictions during religious holidays to allow Gaza’s residents to visit holy sites in Jerusalem or to visit relatives in Israel or the West Bank.
COGAT, the defense body that oversees Palestinian civilian affairs, said it will let only Christians aged 55 and older and children under age 16 enter Israel for Easter, which is celebrated by Catholics on Sunday and Orthodox Christians the following week. It said the restrictions were needed after previous cases in which Gazan visitors overstayed their permitted time in Israel.
A Christian leader in Gaza said the restrictions mean that only about one-third of the community’s 1,100 members will be allowed into Israel to celebrate. He said he was disappointed because his children would not be able to see their aunts in the West Bank city of Ramallah. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want to jeopardize his own entry permit.
Wadie Abunassar, a Catholic Church official, called the restrictions “very sad” because Easter is a family holiday. He said it was “not reasonable” to allow a mother and father to enter Israel, while “leaving their children back in Gaza,” and urged Israel to reconsider.
“If people want to leave, they don’t want to leave for a honeymoon,” he said. “It is for a family trip.”


I won’t quit: Lebanese PM defiant as his critics blast financial chaos

Updated 40 min 48 sec ago

I won’t quit: Lebanese PM defiant as his critics blast financial chaos

  • University president and UN human rights chief join condemnation of ‘incompetent’ government

BEIRUT: Beleaguered Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Saturday defied a barrage of criticism to declare that his government alone ruled Lebanon and it was determined to implement reforms to resolve the financial crisis.

Diab dismissed as “fake news” reports that he was on the verge of resignation, and said: “Lebanon will not be under anyone’s control as long as I am in power.”

The prime minister spoke after UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned that Lebanon was enduring “the worst economic crisis in its history” and was “fast spiraling out of control.” 

She urged Diab’s government to initiate urgent reforms and respond to “the people’s essential needs, such as food, electricity, health, and education.”

Diab also faced harsh criticism from the American University of Beirut (AUB), where he was vice president and a professor before becoming prime minister.

BACKGROUND

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet urged the Lebanese government to initiate urgent reforms and respond to ‘the people’s essential needs, such as food, health and education.’

AUB president Fadlo Khuri said Diab’s government was the worst in Lebanon’s history in its understanding of higher education.

“I have not seen any shred of competence in this government since its formation six months ago,” said.

“The government owes the AUB $150 million in medical bills,” Khuri said, and he urged Diab to “at least discuss with us a payment timeline.”

Lebanon’s financial plight is illustrated by its currency, the lira, which has lost 80 percent of its value. 

The black market  dollar exchange rate on Saturday was 7,500, compared with the official rate of 1,507.

Bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund were suspended in a dispute over government debt, but Diab insisted on Saturday: “We have turned the page … and started discussing the basic reforms required and the program that the IMF and Lebanon will agree upon, which will restore confidence and open the door to many projects.”