Muslims begin Haj pilgrimage in Saudi
   Date :15-Jun-2024

Haj pilgrimage in Saudi 
MINA (Saudi Arabia), 
IN SWELTERING temperatures, Muslim pilgrims in Mecca converged on a vast tent camp in the desert on Friday, officially opening the annual Haj pilgrimage. Ahead of their trip, they circled the cube-shaped Kaaba in the Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest site. More than 1.5 million pilgrims from around the world have already amassed in and around Mecca for the Haj, and the number was still growing as more pilgrims from inside Saudi Arabia joined. Saudi authorities expected the number of pilgrims to exceed 2 million this year. This year’s Haj came against the backdrop of the raging war in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Palestinian militants, which pushed the entire Middle East to the brink of a regional war between Israel and its allies on one side and Iran-backed militant groups on the other.
Palestinians in the coastal enclave of Gaza were not able to travel to Mecca for Haj this year because of the closure of the Rafah crossing in May when Israel extended its ground offensive to the strip’s southern city of Rafah on the border with Egypt. Palestinian authorities said 4,200 pilgrims from the occupied West Bank arrived in Mecca for Haj. Saudi authorities said 1,000 more from the families of Palestinians killed or wounded in the war in Gaza also arrived to perform Haj at the invitation of King Salman of Saudi Arabia. The 1,000 invitees were already outside Gaza — mostly in Egypt — before closure of the Rafah crossing.
“We are deprived of (performing) Haj because the crossing is closed, and because of the raging wars and destruction,” said Amna Abu Mutlaq, a 75-year-old Palestinian woman from Gaza’s southern city of Khan Younis who had planned to perform Haj this year. “They (Israel) deprived us from everything.” This year’s Haj also saw Syrian pilgrims travelling to Mecca on direct flights from Damascus for the first time in more than a decade.