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300 Gazans allowed to pray at Al-Aqsa after ban on visitations lifted

June 17, 2016 10:58 A.M. (Updated: June 17, 2016 8:09 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Three hundred Palestinians from the besieged Gaza Strip were permitted on Friday to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, according to Palestinian officials, following a recent decision to lift a ban implemented last week in response to a deadly shooting in Tel Aviv.

The worshippers, all of whom were above the age of 50, travelled to Jerusalem via the Erez crossing to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque for the second Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, according to a Palestinian liaison official.

The visits come just a day after Israeli authorities lifted a ban on visitations by elderly Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, following the suspension of all coordination with the small Palestinian territory in a punitive response to an attack in Tel Aviv that left four Israelis killed and at least a dozen wounded.

Visitations by elderly Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to Al-Aqsa were implemented as part of a ceasefire agreement that ended Israel’s 2014 offensive on the besieged enclave.

However, due to Israeli security concerns and Jewish holidays, visitations have been frequently interrupted since their introduction.

Palestinian officials told Ma’an that 500 worshipers were expected to visit Al-Aqsa on Friday for Ramadan. However, Israeli authorities have continued to freeze the permits of all Palestinians in the Gaza Strip that do not fit within the criteria of the 2014 ceasefire agreement.

Israeli police released a statement on Thursday saying that entry into Jerusalem for Friday prayers for Palestinians from the occupied West Bank would be determined according to decisions made by the Minister of Defense.

The Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which implements Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, issued an order last week freezing more than 83,000 permits allowing Palestinians to enter Israel and occupied East Jerusalem.

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