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Israel announces 'special procedures' for Palestinian Muslims over Ramadan

May 21, 2017 8:10 P.M. (Updated: May 21, 2017 10:39 P.M.)
The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, pictured on March 27, 2015, in Jerusalem's Old City (AFP/File Thomas Coex)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel has announced "special procedures" for the entry of Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip into Israel and occupied East Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Palestinians who have already been denied permits for so-called security reasons would not be allowed to enter, according to statement released Friday by Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli agency responsible for enforcing Israeli government policies in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Regarding Palestinians in the West Bank, COGAT said that 200,000 Palestinians who have families in Israel would be granted special permits to visit their relatives during Ramadan, which will begin either on May 27 or on May 28, depending on moon sighting on Friday the 26th.

In addition, 700 Palestinians will be granted permits to visit their families in Israel during Eid al-Fitr, which comes immediately after Ramadan.

Men over 40 will be allowed to go to occupied East Jerusalem to pray at the Old City's Al-Aqsa Mosque on Fridays throughout the holy month as well as on Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Decree), without a need for permits.

Boys under 12 years old and women regardless of age will be also allowed to pray at Al-Aqsa on the same days without permits.

Men between 30 and 40 years old can apply for special permits to pray in Al-Aqsa Mosque on Fridays and on Laylat al-Qadr.

COGAT also said that 500 Palestinians would be granted permits to travel abroad via Israel's Ben Gurion international airport after undergoing security checks.

Typically, Palestinians in the West Bank are only permitted to travel abroad via Amman's airport after first crossing the land border with Jordan.

With regards to the Gaza Strip, COGAT's statement said that 100 men over 55 would be granted permits every Friday to pray in Al-Aqsa Mosque, tightening restrictions from last year, when 300 men over the age of 50 were allowed to attend weekly prayers.

On average, 200 Gazans have been allowed to travel to Al-Aqsa as part of the ceasefire deal between Palestinian militant groups and Israel which ended the 2014 war on Gaza. However, the agreement has been regularly suspended over Israeli claims regarding security.

In addition, 300 employees of Palestinian and international organizations including the Palestinian Red Crescent, trade unions, and international organizations based in the besieged coastal enclave, will be granted permits to travel to Jerusalem Sunday-Thursday during Ramadan, on condition that they are married and over 55, and do not have any security bans.

The special permits will be issued between Sunday May 21 to Thursday the 25th, between the hours of 8 a.m and 10 p.m., COGAT said.

For many Palestinians in Jerusalem and across the occupied Palestinian territory, Ramadan is directly connected to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Last year, Israeli authorities froze the permits of 83,000 Palestinians to enter Israel, banned visitations of elderly Gazans to the Al-Aqsa Mosque for a week, and cancelled all coordination with the Gaza Strip during the month of Ramadan, in the wake of a deadly shooting attack in Tel Aviv.
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