Israel to ease West Bank, Gaza movement during Ramadan
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Israel to ease West Bank, Gaza movement during Ramadan

Measures include permits for Gazans to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque, travel between Palestinian territories for family visits

Palestinian Muslim worshipers pray outside the Dome of the Rock at the al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem during the first Friday prayer of the holy month of Ramadan, on June 19, 2015. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)
Palestinian Muslim worshipers pray outside the Dome of the Rock at the al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem during the first Friday prayer of the holy month of Ramadan, on June 19, 2015. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

Israel announced Friday it was relaxing restrictions on the movement of Palestinians to and from the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The measures, similar to those of previous years, were announced by COGAT, the unit which manages civilian affairs in the West Bank under the auspices of newly appointed hardline Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Up to 500 people from the Gaza Strip will be allowed to attend Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem over the holy month, set to begin on Monday.

In addition, 200 Gaza residents will be allowed to visit relatives in the West Bank during Ramadan, and 500 Palestinians from the West Bank will be authorized to visit family in Gaza, COGAT said.

Israel will also allow 300 Palestinians living abroad to visit relatives in Gaza, and 500 West Bank Palestinians would be permitted to travel out of Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.

File: COGAT commander Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, left, at the Bitunya Crossing near Ramallah. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)
File: COGAT commander Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, left, at the Bitunya Crossing near Ramallah. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)

There will be additional allowances for the Muslim holidays which follow the end of Ramadan.

The COGAT statement said the measures were “in line with the Israeli civil policy striving to improve the quality of life” for Palestinians and “maintaining freedom of religion.”

Israel has been facing a wave of Palestinian attacks since October that cost hundreds of Palestinian and Israeli lives, triggered in part by tensions over Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, which sits atop the flashpoint Temple Mount, the site of the two Jewish temples in biblical times. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit the site, but not pray there.

Joint (Arab) List leader Ayman Odeh in the Knesset, January 28, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Joint (Arab) List leader Ayman Odeh in the Knesset, January 28, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The attacks have largely abated, but a ban remains in place on Israeli lawmakers — both Muslim and Jewish — from visiting the site, to prevent tensions from flaring.

But MKs from the Joint (Arab) List have informed the Knesset they intend to pray at the site during Ramadan, regardless of the ban.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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