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Israel clamps down on re-entry visas for Arab Christian leaders

Israel (Eklesia) The Israeli government is no longer granting routine re-entry visas to Arab Christian religious leaders who wish to travel in and out of occupied Palestinian territories, report Catholic news agencies.

According to information given to the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation by Christian clergy in Jerusalem , Christian church workers will now have to apply for re-entry visas at Israeli consulates each time they travel outside of areas occupied by Israel , a process that normally takes months.

Until now, re-entry visas were normally granted, and church workers travelled around the area and overseas with relative ease.

The new policy means that clergy will no longer be able to move freely between their parishes in occupied territories.

The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation quoted the example of Father Fares Khleifat, the only Greek Melkite priest in Ramallah, who travelled to Jordan for several days earlier this month.

When he tried to return to his parish on 14 September, he was stopped at the Israeli border, and his multiple-entry visa was canceled. He has been forced to remain in Jordan and his parish now has no priest.