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MENAFN - Arab News - 19/11/2009

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(MENAFN - Arab News) Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has instructed authorities to host 2,000 relatives of Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks so they can perform Haj this year. They will be treated as the government's guests.

Palestinian Endowment Minister Mahmoud Al-Habbash commended the king's gesture and said it would make all Palestinians happy. He said the pilgrims would be selected equally from Gaza and the West Bank by a special panel.

He said the royal gesture covers housing and transportation, adding that Palestinian embassies in Amman and Cairo have been instructed to collect the beneficiaries' passports to get Haj visas.

About 5,000 Palestinians, including the king's guests, are expected to perform Haj this year.

Meanwhile, Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal inspected Haj facilities at the holy sites on Wednesday, including the final phase of the Jamrat Bridge project and the first phase of the monorail project.

Later speaking to reporters, the governor expressed satisfaction over the arrangements made by various government departments to serve the guests of God so that they may perform the rituals in safety and comfort. He also visited the Arafat expansion project. About a million square-meter-area in Arafat has been leveled this year to create more space for pilgrims.

Prince Khaled laid the foundation stone for the third phase of the shuttle service, which will be used for the first time this year for Iranian and non-Arab African pilgrims. The system was previously used for the transportation of pilgrims from Turkey, Europe, America and Australia as well as Southeast Asia.

When the prince and those accompanying him arrived at the Jamrat Bridge, he was greeted by Haj Minister Fouad Al-Farsy, Transport Minister Jabara Al-Seraisry, and Habeeb Zain Al-Abidine, deputy municipal and rural affairs minister and supervisor of the development projects in the holy sites.

Zain Al-Abidine spoke of the monorail project linking the holy sites with Makkah, adding that pilgrims would be able to use the facility next year. Four helipad towers will be constructed near the Jamrat for airlifting injured and sick people.

He said more than 600 cameras had been installed on the Jamrat to monitor the movement of pilgrims and to prevent possible accidents.

"We have prepared a documentary in nine languages to inform the pilgrims how to follow safety regulations while performing the stoning ritual," he added. Sixty special trucks have been readied to transport elderly pilgrims to the Jamrat.

Prince Khaled later opened the new building of the Mina Hospital and inspected its medical facilities. He also went to the emergency and crisis department, which includes a section for combating dengue fever. The governor was accompanied by Al-Farsy, Al-Seraisry, Gen. Saad Al-Qahtani, director general of public security, Gen. Saad Al-Tuwaijeri, director general of Civil Defense and Makkah Mayor Osama Al-Bar.

By Badea Abu Al-Naja & Galal Fakkar, with input from Hamid Al-Sulami


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