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250 Gazans travel to Al-Aqsa for Friday prayers

Saturday, October 22, 2016 14:22
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250 Gazans travel to Al-Aqsa for Friday prayers
Oct. 21, 2016 10:37 A.M. (Updated: Oct. 21, 2016 11:51 A.M.)
http://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=773658

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — More than 200 Palestinians from the besieged Gaza Strip
traveled to occupied East Jerusalem to attend Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa
Mosque, according to Palestinian liaison officials.

The officials told Ma’an that 250 Palestinian worshipers, all above the age
of 50, traveled to Jerusalem via the Erez crossing between the besieged
enclave and Israel to attend prayers, before immediately returning to the
Gaza Strip.

The number of Palestinians permitted to worship at Al-Aqsa was reduced by
Israel in recent months, 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.

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