Israeli authorities lifted the ban for elderly Gazans who request to travel to Jerusalem for Friday prayer at the Al Aqsa Mosque in the Haram al Sharif complex, Palestinian officials said Wednesday.
Israel had stopped issuing permits last March for Gazans wanting to visit the complex area and pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque.
Palestinian Ministry of Civil Affairs spokesman Mohammed Makhadmeh said “around 200 people over 60 will be heading to Jerusalem this Friday.”
The Al Aqsa Mosque is the world’s third holiest site for Muslims as it is believed to be the first direction of prayer, while the Haram al-Sharif is also seen as a holy site by Christians and Jews.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the Jewish state – a move never recognised by the international community.
Israeli violations in Al Aqsa Compound
Israeli violations against Jerusalem’s Haram al-Sharif complex have continued unabated since the 1967 occupation.
The most serious assault on the Al Aqsa mosque occurred in August of 1969, when a Jewish Australian, known as Denis Michael Rohan, set fire to the building, partially damaging it.
Attacks have not been limited to the mosque, but have also targeted worshipers. In April of 1982, an Israeli soldier indiscriminately opened fire on worshipers inside the mosque, killing two and wounding six.
While in October of 1990, Israeli police killed 21 Palestinians and injured another 150 after clashes erupted when Jewish extremists tried to place the foundation stone of a Jewish temple inside the mosque.
Since the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has carried out "archaeological" work in the vicinity of the mosque without disclosing the exact nature or details of these excavations.
Palestinian objections to the excavations reached a fever pitch in September of 1996, when the Israeli government opened a tunnel under Al Aqsa’s western wall.
The move drew massive Palestinian opposition, sparking days of demonstrations in the Israeli-occupied territories, during which 63 Palestinians were killed and some 1,600 injured.
Provocative visits ever since escalated dramatically in 2014 and 2015, Palestinian sources say.
"There is no doubt that 2015 was the most difficult year - for the Al Aqsa in particular and the Palestinian cause in general - due to the Israeli occupation’s intransigence and the excesses of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s extremist right-wing government," Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, the mosque’s head imam said.