Friday, May 22
Latest News
  1. Huge blasts outside Sanaa after coalition air raids
  2. Monitor: Rebels seize hospital holding 150 Syrian soldiers
  3. Blast hits Shiite mosque in eastern Saudi
  4. US envoy urges Myanmar Rohingya 'citizenship' to end exodus
  5. UN: 300-400 new cholera cases per day among Burundians in Tanzania
  6. Iraq's Sunni tribes feel deserted after Ramadi fall
  7. London cabbie bombmaker 'murdered US soldier in Iraq'
  8. US blacklists Iraqi firm helping Iran buy Airbus planes
  9. Raids hit Yemen rebels, allies ahead of new talks bid
  10. Polls open for Irish referendum on gay marriage
  11. Official: Myanmar navy carries out first rescue of migrant boat
  12. UK PM predicts 'ups and downs' in EU renegotiation bid
  13. UK's Cameron to visit Paris, Berlin for talks next week
  14. Iraqi PM in Russia urges cooperation on fighting IS
  15. Qatar hits back at Amnesty labor claims
  16. Libya says 11 killed in fresh Benghazi clashes
  17. AFP: Burundi protesters battle police in Bujumbura center
  18. Syria's Palmyra in peril as IS seizes ancient city
  19. Bahrain verdict in opposition chief trial next month
  20. Bridge opens to let displaced Iraqis flee Anbar

Palestinians flock to Jerusalem as Israeli restrictions eased

Aug. 15, 2012 9:44 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 16, 2012 9:33 P.M.)
By: Noah Browning
JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Israel has unexpectedly eased restrictions on Palestinians looking to visit Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, saying improved security meant it could let in thousands more from the occupied West Bank.

Israeli officials said on Wednesday they had lowered the age limit for men wanting to visit al-Aqsa mosque in the old city to 40 from 50 and had also handed out seven times more permits to Palestinians between the ages of 35 and 40.

Religious authorities said up to half a million people visited the third holiest site in Islam on Tuesday night, many of them from the nearby West Bank, as visitors and pilgrims flowed through the checkpoints on Jerusalem's Eastern flanks.

"I'm rejoicing and so happy to be in Jerusalem after 10 years of not visiting," said 42-year-old Mohammed Rashid, from the West Bank town of Yatta, sipping a midnight draught of coffee in a brightly lit old city arcade.

The Israeli Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories' said that whereas last Ramadan it had handed out just 16,700 entry permits, this year it had distributed 123,514, and had also slashed the age limit.

A COGAT spokesman said the change was "due to the security situation", adding that Israel wanted "to support and strengthen the economy and allow Palestinian's freedom of religious worship in the maximum".

However, the new rules only apply for the last few days of Ramadan, after which the old restrictions come back into force. "Why am I allowed in now, but next week I'm not?" Rashid asked.

The Old City's stone streets, normally echoing caverns hinting at isolation and hard economic times by night, were a thick flow of pilgrims on Tuesday night, coursing past stalls of traditional cross-stitched dresses, prayer beads, spices and sweets.

Israel captured east Jerusalem, including the main holy sites, in a 1967 war and annexed it, later proclaiming all the city as its "eternal and indivisible" capital. The move has not been recognized internationally, and Palestinians want the eastern part as the capital of their own, future state.

"It's not a question of the number of permits, but why permits are needed at all," said Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee.

"To cut Palestinians off from their cultural, religious, and political institutions in Jerusalem is unjust and unfair."

Israel imposed a network of checkpoints and built a broad separation barrier across the West Bank after the eruption of Palestinian uprising beginning in 2000, preventing most West Bankers from entering the country.

Over 1,000 Israelis and several thousand Palestinians died in the violence which petered out mid way through the decade.
Powered By: HTD Technologies
Ma'an News Agency
All rights reserved © 2005-2015