Elderly Gazans pay rare Eid visit to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque
For the first time since 2007 a few hundred were Gazans permitted to visit Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem - but only those over age of 60
Palestinians from Gaza pray outside the Dome of the Rock during their visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque (AFP)
Published date: 13 February 2015 01:30 UTC | Last update: 5 years ago
Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem is the third holiest site in Islam and yet many Palestinians will never visit it.
However, this weekend hundreds of elderly Gazans were able to pay a rare visit to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound after Israel eased tight restrictions on movement over the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
It was the first time since 2007 that Muslim worshippers from Gaza were granted permission to travel to the ancient shrine in Jerusalem's Old City, an Israeli rights group said.
The move to ease access over the Muslim feast of sacrifice was announced by Israel just over a month after a ceasefire ended a 50-day war in Gaza which killed almost 2,200 Palestinians and 73 on the Israeli side.
Under the terms of the deal, Israel agreed to ease restrictions limiting Palestinians' freedom of movement.
The Israeli army said in a statement that it had given permits to 500 Gaza residents over the age of 60 to visit the plaza to celebrate the three-day holiday which began on Saturday.
The 500-strong group arrived at the Al-Aqsa mosque plaza in Jerusalem's Old City during the morning and were allowed to stay there until 3:00 pm (1200 GMT), after which they were taken back to the Gaza border, an AFP correspondent said.
Many hadn't visited the shrine - the third holiest site in Islam - in decades, kissing the ground as they entered the sprawling plaza.
"I haven't been here for 35 years. Everything has changed," smiled Umm Dallaleh Fayyad, a woman in a black abaya and a vibrant blue headscarf.
"It's like being in paradise."
The move was hailed by Gisha, an Israeli NGO which fights for freedom of access and movement for Palestinians, which had repeatedly petitioned the courts over the matter, without success.
"This hasn't happened since 2007. Christians could leave (for religious holidays) but not Muslims," said Gisha spokeswoman Shai Grunberg.
Gazans' freedom of movement has been restricted since 2007 when the Islamist movement Hamas seized control of the territory, prompting Israel to significantly tighten a blockade imposed a year earlier after militants there seized an Israeli soldier.