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Passover restrictions affect Palestinians

March 29, 2010 6:57 P.M. (Updated: March 30, 2010 1:58 P.M.)
Jerusalem/Bethlehem – Ma'an – As the Jewish Passover holiday begins, Israel has enforced tightened military and security measures around Jerusalem, affecting Palestinians across the occupied Palestinian territories.

Israeli authorities have imposed a closure on the West Bank, effective Sunday evening, until the end of Passover next Tuesday, restricting Palestinian movement.

Lina Baboun, 82, from Bethlehem, told Ma'an she was prevented entry into Jerusalem for an appointment at an eye hospital, despite having the necessary permits for transit. She said Israeli soldiers manning the Gilo checkpoint disregarded her permit authorizing entry, forcing her to return to Bethlehem.

In early March, Israeli authorities imposed a lockdown on the West Bank, which saw a woman in labor being forced out of an Israeli ambulance upon being denied entry into Israel, in spite of possessing a permit allowing her transit and being married to an Israeli resident.

A Christian Bethlehem resident, who preferred to remain anonymous, said worshipers have been greatly affected by the closure, and was denied entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, even though they had received permits allowing them to celebrate with relatives in the city.

The Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic rights reported that age restrictions have been placed on Muslims wishing to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, on the eve of Passover, prohibiting all worshipers under the age of 50 from entry.

Abu Muhammad, a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship, from Jaffa in Nazareth, in his sixties, said he was prevented from entering the compound by force.

An Israeli police officer told the center that they have received an order to prevent Palestinians living in the north of Israel from entering Al-Aqsa, including those over 50.

On Monday, nearly 500 school children were prevented from accessing their school in the courtyard of the Al-Aqsa compound, according to the director of the Al-Aqsa Secondary School, Sheikh Najeh Afana.

Afana, who is also director of manuscripts for the Al-Aqsa Mosque, said that the continual prohibition placed on students from reaching their schools "cannot be tolerated. Students have lost more than 11 school days since the beginning of the school year as a result of Israeli policy."

The center said restrictions placed on Palestinian Muslims on access to the third holiest site in Islam are collective punishment, a violation of freedom of movement, worship and access to holy places.

On Sunday, 11 Palestinians were detained in Bethlehem during a Palm Sunday march, protesting Israel's restrictions that prevent Christian worshipers in the city from performing religious rites in Jerusalem over Easter.

The Palm Sunday detainees include Fatah Central Committee Member Abbas Zaki, marking the first time a high-ranking Palestinian official has been detained by Israel since the Oslo Accords in 1993.

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