The Israeli military says it is permitting hundreds of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to pray at Jerusalem’s most important mosque for the first time since 2007.
Israel has restricted travel out of Gaza since the Hamas took control of the enclave in 2007. Since then, Israel has not granted permits for Gazans specifically wanting to pray at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site.
Muslims are marking Eid al-Adha, an important holiday.
The Israeli military says 1,500 Gazans will cross into Israel over the next three days. Permits were restricted to people over the age of 60.
The permits were granted weeks after Israel and Hamas ended a 50-day war that killed more than 2,100 people.
Gazans boarded buses early today, crossed into Israel and headed toward Jerusalem's Old City.
The worshippers, some in wheelchairs or using canes, showed their permits to Israeli security guards, who waved them inside the mosque compound.
Zainab Hassanein, a Gazan who received a permit, called the gesture “a positive step”, but said younger Gazans should be allowed in to pray at the mosque as well.
Israel said it has eased other restrictions as well, including allowing agricultural and fishing products to be exported from Gaza to the West Bank. Israel has also agreed to a procedure that would facilitate the entry of construction materials into Gaza to help with post-war construction.
Gisha, an Israeli group that advocates freedom of movement for Gazans, welcomed the expanded access but called for an end to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza, imposed in 2007, which has set severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods through Gaza’s borders.