Israel has revoked permission for Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to travel to Jerusalem for Friday prayers on the Temple Mount, claiming exploitation of the system and misuse of permits granted by Israeli authorities.
As part of a ceasefire agreement that ended the 2014 Gaza war, some 200 Gazans above the age of 60 have received weekly permission to enter Israel in order to worship at the al-Aqsa Mosque.
Sources at the Palestinian liaison office said Israel canceled the agreement because Palestinian worshipers were, against the rules, not returning to the Gaza Strip on the same day of the visit, according to the Palestinian Maan News agency.
The Coordinator of the Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), a branch of Israel’s Defense Ministry, said the decision was due to “inappropriate misusing the permit and exploiting inappropriately the Israeli civil policy.”
“Any claims regarding the freezing of permits for prayers in the Temple Mount should be directed to those who choose to exploit illegally the permits at the expense of the rest of the public,” a COGAT spokesman said.
They called the decision “temporary” and said that permits would be reissued when “the issue is addressed by the Palestinian Civil Committee in the Gaza Strip.”
The move comes just a week after Defense Ministry officials reportedly said they were considering increasing the number of Palestinians able to travel from Gaza to the Temple Mount each week, as well as lowering the age limit to 50.
Israel has sharply restricted travel out of the Gaza Strip since the Hamas terrorist group took over the territory in 2007. It has consistently granted permits for humanitarian reasons and to Christians wanting to travel to Bethlehem for holidays, but permits specifically meant to allow Muslims to visit the Temple Mount had not been issued before the 2014 Gaza war, according to Gisha, an Israeli group that advocates freedom of movement for Gazans.
Israel began to ease its restrictions on the Gaza border in October 2014, granting some 1,500 permits for Gazans to travel to Jerusalem during the three-day Eid al-Adha holiday. The permits were part of a package of concessions made in the wake of a 50-day war against Hamas.
In June 2015 COGAT announced it was revoking the permits for 500 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to enter Jerusalem for Friday prayers because of rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave. Entry to Israel has been blocked on a number of other occasions due to unrest on the Temple Mount.