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Palestine's Ambassador to Asharq Al-Awsat: Saudi Arabia Allows Palestinians to Perform Umrah With Traditional Travel Documents - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Palestinian children wave the Palestinian, Japanese and UN flags at an event in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip yesterday (AFP)

Palestinian children wave the Palestinian, Japanese and UN flags at an event in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip yesterday (AFP)

The Palestinian ambassador to Saudi Arabia Basem Al-Agha revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the Saudi government is allowing Palestinian holders of non- machine-readable passports to perform the rituals of Hajj and Umrah (the major and minor pilgrimages) this year and added that the exception has been made taking into account the circumstances of thousands of Palestinians who have not yet been able to register their passports electronically, despite the strict rules imposed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) about the need to use modern travel documents whilst travelling between countries.

The ambassador explained that some media voices affiliated to the Iranian government tried to disturb the relationship between the Palestinian people and the government of the custodian of the two holy mosques recently by claiming that Saudi Arabia denied Palestinians the right to perform Umrah because their passports were hand written and launched a campaign about the Palestinians being treated unjustly in this regard. Al-Agha added that “our brothers in the kingdom have consistently provided complete facilitation since the era of the late founder King Abdul Aziz”.

Al-Agha also indicated that this facilitation granted by Saudi Arabia to the Palestinians is not new and that it issues more than eight thousand visas to pilgrims from Palestine. In addition to this, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz hosted 2,000 Palestinian families performing the lesser pilgrimage and gave additional visas to more than 1,500 pilgrims during the last Hajj season.

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz led international action to protect the Palestinian people and the Al-Aqsa Mosque at the end of September last year, following the escalation of Israeli attacks in the mosque and its barefaced assault on worshipers. King Salman did this by contacting the Secretary General of the United Nations and a number of world leaders. During his correspondence with them, King Salman stressed the need to expend serious and quick efforts and the need for the Security Council to take urgent measures to stop Israeli violations against the Al-Aqsa Mosque. He also emphasised the necessity to protect the Palestinian people and holy sites and give the Palestinian people their legitimate rights.