South Africa’s civil society organizations, including churches, condemned Friday an Israeli ban on Christians from the occupied Gaza Strip from traveling to Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth to celebrate Christmas.

Iqbal Jassat, an executive of the Johannesburg-based advocacy group, Media Review Network, told Anadolu Agency his group condemns in the strongest terms the religious bigotry of “apartheid Israel.”

“Barring Palestinian Christians from attending Christmas rituals in Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem is an outrageous attack on freedom of religion,’’Jassat said.

Israel, which has occupied Palestine for more than 50 years, announced recently that residents of Gaza will not be granted permits

Read more: S. Africa slams Israel Christmas ban on Gaza Christians