As it does every year, the military’s liaison to the Palestinians issued a series of civil measures to ease entry restrictions into Jerusalem for Muslim residents of the West Bank and Gaza during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
By Erin Viner
The Head of the Unit for Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Major General Rassan Alian announced that the steps were formulated following a security assessment.
“They reflect the recommendations of the security services and are intended to provide freedom of worship for the Palestinian public,” said a statement TV7 obtained from the COGAT Spokesperson’s Office,.
Entry to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City for Friday prayers during Ramadan has been approved for women of all ages, and children up to the age of 12, without existing permits. Men aged 55 and above can also enter without permits; while those between 45 to 55 will only be granted access if in possession of valid permit.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque area is the most sensitive site in the generations-old conflict with Israel. It was built atop the ruins of both biblical temples, considered by the Jewish People as the holiest site in the world and also revered to Christians. The compound is Islam’s third most sacred site after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. Even though Israel regards the entirety of of Jerusalem as its eternal capital and the center of the Jewish faith, it has observed the “Status Quo” arrangement that existed prior to its reunification of Jerusalem following the 1967 Six Day War, that bars Jewish prayer at the compound as not to ‘inflame Muslim anger.’ Religious worship on the al-Aqsa compound is restricted to Muslims, while Jews pray at the Western Wall nearby.
West Bank Palestinians will be able to visit relatives in Israel and receive visits by residents of foreign countries.
All of the above gestures of goodwill are contingent on receipt of security approval.
In addition, said the COGAT statement, Palestinian residents of Judea and Samaria may order tickets to fly overseas during the month of Ramadan on special flights from Israel’s southern Ilan and Asaf Ramon International Airport.
Moreover, hours of operation at various crossings in Judea and Samaria will be extended to accommodate the worshippers.
Gaza residents will be allowed to enter Israel Sundays through Thursdays according to a limited quota, including women aged 50 years and up and men 55 and older. The Gaza Strip is controlled by the Islamist Hamas terror organization, that rejects Israel’s right to exist and frequently vows to annihilate the Jewish State.
He also wished the Muslim community the traditional holiday greeting in Arabic, “Shahar Mubarak w’ Ramadan Kareem,” meaning a “blessed and happy Ramadan.”