Israel began to ease security restrictions Monday in its annual tradition of expanding authorizations of visitor permits for border crossings with the Palestinian Authority for the Christian holiday season.
Both the number and type of permits are being expanded for in anticipation of the season.
The decision was made by IDF officials, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (CoGAT), Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz who met to discuss "trust-building measures" to improve the quality of life for PA Arab residents.
During the holiday season, permits are being provided for Christian PA Arabs from the Judea and Samaria regions to visit Israel during the entire season, with no limitations on age.
Four hundred permits are being authorized for Christian PA Arabs to travel abroad via Ben Gurion International Airport after passing security inspections.
Five hundred Christian PA Arab residents of Gaza are being granted permits to visit Israel and the Judea and Samaria regions "in order to visit their families and participate in religious ceremonies," the IDF Spokesman said.
In this case, there are restrictions, however: the permits are to be provided to minors are under the age of 16 and adults over age 45.
Even citizens from Arab countries will be allowed to enter for the duration -- 200 permits will be allocated for Christians from Arab nations to visit in the Judea and Samaria region during the holidays, the IDF Spokesman said.
The holiday period, which began Monday, December 19, will extend to January 20, 2012.