Israel announced Friday it will ease restrictions on Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, including easier access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, issuing more travel permits and allowing them to fly abroad from Ben Gurion airport.
The measures, similar to those of previous years, were announced by Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). This is the body which manages civilian affairs in the West Bank under the auspices of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and at the recommendation of IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.
Men over the age of 40 will not require a permit to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Women, and children below 12, will also not need a permit for prayers at the Muslim holy site. Permits will be issued to men between the age of 30 to 40 for prayer for the entire month of Ramadan, which begins on Friday night.
Up to 500 permits will be issued for flights abroad through Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.
Crossings between the West Bank and Israel will remain open for longer, making it easier for West Bank residents to enter and return for prayers.
In addition, up to 200,000 permits for family visits in Israel will be given for the duration of Ramadan without age restrictions.
For Palestinian residents of Gaza up to 100 permits to pray in Jerusalem will be issued every Friday during Ramadan, for those 55 years and older, and up to 300 permits each day for the other days of the week. Gazans will travel by shuttle bus directly to Jerusalem.
In a statement, COGAT head Major General Yoav (Poly) Mordechai, said that the moves were “part of the policy to improve the Palestinian population’s quality of life in Judea and Samaria and to assist the Gaza Strip residents.”
During the month of Ramadan, which begins when clerics see the new crescent moon, Muslims around the world abstain from dawn to dusk from eating, drinking, smoking and having sex.
They break the fast with a meal known as iftar and before dawn they have a second opportunity to eat and drink during suhur.
Ramadan is sacred to Muslims because tradition says the Koran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed during that month.
Ramadan is followed by the feast of Eid al-Fitr.
AFP contributed to this report.