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Israel bans Palestinian travel from Gaza to Aqsa for 2nd week

April 29, 2016 12:40 A.M. (Updated: April 30, 2016 5:43 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities for the second week in a row prevented Palestinians from traveling from the Gaza Strip to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem for Friday worship due to the Jewish holiday of Passover.

Sources at the Palestinian military liaison told Ma’an that the ban on travel out of the besieged enclave was implemented for some 200 Palestinians above the age of 60 who are ordinarily permitted to cross through the Erez crossing to pray at the holy site.

Israeli Ministry of Defense spokeswoman Arielle Heffez confirmed to Ma’an Thursday that all movement through the two operating crossings between Gaza and Israel would be closed Friday due to Passover, with the exception of “passage for humanitarian emergencies.”

While a ceasefire agreement that ended Israel’s 2014 offensive on the Gaza Strip allotted weekly visitation by elderly Palestinians from Gaza to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa, the visits have been frequently interrupted for alleged security reasons and Jewish holidays since.

Israel froze the agreement on March 16 due to allegations that Palestinians traveling for worship were not returning to the Gaza Strip on the same day of the visit, as the agreement stipulated, posing a “threat to security.”

Palestinians were able to make the trip once following a month freeze, before visits were again halted due to Passover.

Israel's total seal of Gaza has brought increasing criticism from the Palestinian enclave's Hamas movement, which on Thursday threatened future bomb attacks on Israel if the siege was not lifted.

Israel’s prevention of the weekly Al-Aqsa visit comes amid a myriad of severe restrictions imposed on Palestinians during the Jewish holiday, which will come to a close on Saturday evening.

Al-Aqsa itself has been the site of daily scuffles throughout the week-long holiday, as far-right Israelis calling for the destruction of the compound’s mosque have toured the holy site, a number of whom were evacuated by Israeli police after violating visitation rules.

Some 70 Palestinians meanwhile were banned from Al-Aqsa since the start of the month.

In other areas of the occupied Palestinian territory, armed Israeli forces have escorted Israeli settlers to holy sites inside of Palestinian villages and cities, while Palestinians living in Hebron were effectively put on lockdown as thousands of right-wingers rallied in the city.
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