Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip on Sunday prevented a group of Palestinian children who lost parents in the July-August war with Israel from making a rare goodwill visit to the Jewish state, organizers of the trip said.
Gaza's Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry, citing the children's "suspicious" itinerary, confirmed they were barred from crossing the border. Israeli peace activists said they had secured permission from the military to admit the 37 children and five accompanying adults for a week-long tour of Israel and the occupied West Bank, seat of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's government.
Yoel Marshak, an activist named on the permit, said the group included children of Hamas fighters killed in the 50-day war, which according to the Gaza Health Ministry claimed more than 2,100 Palestinian lives, most of them non-combatants. Israel put the number of its dead at 67 troops and 6 civilians. During their visit, Marshak said, the children were to have toured Arab towns in Israel as well as southern areas that had been under threat of Gaza rockets. They were also scheduled to attend a performance by a Jewish-Arab band and visit a mixed-race school, the Tel Aviv beach and a nearby safari. The schedule also included a meeting with Abbas in Ramallah.