Hamas: Palestinians freed in Shalit deal to attend hajj pilgrimage
Hamas says Saudi Arabia offered to fly 300 prisoners freed in deal to Islam's annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
The Gaza Strip's Hamas rulers say 300 Palestinian prisoners freed in October in the prisoner swap deal with Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit will take part in Islam's annual hajj pilgrimage.
Hamas border official Maher Abu Sabha says Saudi Arabia offered to fly them to the pilgrimage. He says they will cross from Gaza into Egypt late Friday to catch the flights.
Israel released 477 Palestinian and Israeli-Arab prisoners on October 18, as part of the first phase of a prisoner-swap deal in which a total of 1,027 prisoners were to be traded for Shalit. More than 100 of the 477 prisoners released in the first phase were taken to the West Bank. The rest were brought to Gaza, apart from 42 who were exiled to Turkey, Syria and Qatar. Of the 42 deported prisoners, 16 went to Damascus, Syria, 15 to Qatar, 10 Turkey, and one to Jordan.
Millions of Muslims are expected to participate in the pilgrimage that focuses on Mecca, Islam's holiest site and the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad.