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Israel cancels Gaza worshipers' Friday visit to Al-Aqsa for Peres funeral

Sept. 29, 2016 11:28 A.M. (Updated: Sept. 29, 2016 7:58 P.M.)
(File)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities have canceled this week’s visit of Gazan worshipers to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem due to the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Sources at the Palestinian liaison told Ma’an on Thursday that Israeli informed them that Friday’s visit would not take place, as the funeral of Peres, who died on Wednesday at age 93, is planned to occur that day in Jerusalem.

Israel allows 250 elderly Palestinian worshipers from Gaza to travel through the Erez crossing to pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque every Friday, on the condition that they return to Gaza on the same day.

Visitations of elderly Palestinians from Gaza 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, visits have been frequently interrupted since their introduction.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque, cherished as the third holiest site in Islam, is located in East Jerusalem, a part of the internationally recognized Palestinian territory which has been occupied by the Israeli army for almost 50 years.

It is also venerated as Judaism's most holy place, as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, and some Jewish extremists have called for the destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque so as to build a Third Temple in its place.

The majority of the more than 1.8 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are sealed inside the coastal enclave due to a near-decade long military blockade imposed by Israel and upheld by Egypt on the southern border.
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