Gaza: Israeli occupation authorities have refused to issue entry permits for hundreds of Palestinian Christians from Gaza who were planning to visit holy sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem during Easter and Palm Sunday. Palestinian Christians from Gaza who were planning on visiting the holy sites or their families in the West Bank and Israel, already a rare occasion, will not be able to do so this year. However, Israel only allowed only 200 Christians from Gaza who are over 55-years-old to travel to Jordan only and did not issue permits for those wishing to visit the Church of Nativity in occupied Bethlehem or the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in occupied Jerusalem. Israeli rights group Gisha reported complaints against the Israeli occupation forces regarding the restrictions imposed on people who want to travel during the Jewish Passover holiday which coincides with Easter. “This is a flagrant violation of the freedom of movement, freedom of worship and freedom of enjoying family life for the Christians in Gaza,” Gisha said, noting that Gaza is an example of a “wider Israeli racist policy.” “Imposing such sweeping restrictions on movement cannot be justified by security needs,” said Miriam Marmur, a media coordinator with Gisha, an Israeli rights group that focuses on freedom of movement in and out of Gaza. “The decision is based on political considerations, and the actions are part of Israel’s ‘separation policy,’ which seeks to widen the divide between geographically disconnected Palestinian communities,” added Marmur. “Israel is increasingly restricting movement between Gaza and the West Bank so as to deepen the separation between Palestinians torn between parts of the occupied Palestinian territory, and by doing so, advance and legitimize its annexation of the West Bank,” Gisha wrote in a statement last week. There are an estimated 400,000 Palestinian Christians worldwide, most of whom are refugees who either fled or were expelled by Israeli forces during the 1948 Nakba and now live outside Palestine and Israel. Around 123,000 are citizens of Israel, and 50,000 or so more live in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. thekashmirhorizon.com .