Muhammad al-Maqadmeh, head of the media department of Gaza’s civil affairs committee, told Ma’an at the time that Israeli authorities had informed them that the coordination of visitations for 150 Gazans to exit the besieged coastal enclave for Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa were cancelled.
Meanwhile, the 100 Palestinians whose visitations were coordinated with UNRWA, the UN
agency responsible for providing services to some five million Palestinian refugees, maintained their permission to exit the Gaza
A spokesperson for COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, told Ma’an last week that “many [Palestinians] have exploited these permits and have stayed illegally in Israel
, and do not return to the Gaza
“In spite of the agreements with the Palestinian side, Gaza
residents have continued to exploit the permits and so it was decided to reduce the amount of permits given for travel to Jerusalem
on this Friday. We will not allow for this abuse of Israel’s civil policy to continue,” the spokesperson added.
Earlier this year, Israeli authorities reduced the number of Palestinians permitted to worship at Al-Aqsa, as Israeli authorities had previously permitted 300 elderly Palestinians from the small Palestinian territory to travel to Al-Aqsa every Friday.
A spokesperson for the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, told Ma’an at the time that Israeli authorities decided to reduce the quota of permits for Palestinians to travel to the Al-Aqsa Mosque for prayers as a result of Hamas
and other groups “choosing to use the crossing permits given to them illegally.”
The spokesperson added that the decision would continue to be reviewed “in accordance with the conduct of the Palestinians and their choice to respect the agreements with Israel.”
Visitations of elderly Palestinians from Gaza
were implemented as part of a ceasefire agreement that ended Israel’s 2014 offensive on the besieged enclave. However, due to Israeli security concerns and Jewish holidays, visits have been frequently interrupted since their introduction.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque, cherished as the third holiest site in Islam
, is located in East Jerusalem
, a part of the internationally recognized Palestinian territory which has been occupied by the Israeli army for almost 50 years.
It is also venerated as Judaism’s most holy place, as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, and some Jewish extremists have called for the destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to build a Third Temple in its place.
The majority of the more than 1.8 million Palestinians in the Gaza
Strip are sealed inside the coastal enclave due to a near-decade long military blockade imposed by Israel
and upheld by Egypt
on the southern border.