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Movement to Jerusalem restricted for Muslims on first Friday of Ramadan

Sept. 5, 2008 12:27 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 5, 2008 12:27 P.M.)
Jerusalem - Ma'an - Hundreds of citizens crowded at the Rachel's Tomb (Gilo) checkpoint early Friday morning seeking entry into Jerusalem in order to pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque on the first Friday of the holy month of Ramadan.

The checkpoint, north of Bethlehem, is the official crossing for Palestinians between the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Eyewitnesses said that Israeli authorities imposed severe restrictions on movement, and deployed thousands of policemen and army soldiers around the Old City of Jerusalem, where IDs and permits were checked at all of the entrance points to the area. Several roads were closed leading to the Old City, and many had to disembark from busses and park cars in order to walk to the site.

Israeli authorities said that men under the age of 45 were forbidden to enter Jerusalem. Men between 45-50 had to obtain a permit in order to enter the city, and men over the age of 50 could enter without a permit.

For women, they said, those under the age of 35 are forbidden from entering Jerusalem, and those between 35-45 can apply for a permit. Those over 45 can enter the city without a permit.

The Rachel's Tomb checkpoint was not the only place where restrictions were imposed, however. Eyewitnesses told Ma'an that Israeli forces had equally strict procedures in place at the Qalandiya checkpoint, where residents from the Ramallah and northern West Bank areas pass through to Jerusalem.

Hundreds of soldiers and policemen were sent out near the checkpoint and prevented cars from approaching. Palestinians were told to walk to the area, and take busses from the other end fo the checkpoint into Jerusalem.

Eyewitnesses added that intensive inspections were conducted on almost all Palestinians, and that even those holding Jerusalem identity cards (covered with blue instead of green), which usually allow freer movement between the West Bank and Jerusalem, were subjected to searches.

Dozens of peace activists arrived at Qalandiya, in order to observe the searches and paper checking of Israeli soldiers, and to stand in solidarity with Palestinians as they waited for hours to pass through.

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