JERUSALEM – Israel said on Wednesday it would let 500 Palestinians living in Gaza pray at a Jerusalem holy site during the Id al-Adha feast at the weekend, and allow Palestinians from the West Bank to enter Israel more freely for the holiday.
The measures were announced as Washington issued statements condemning Israeli settlement expansion plans in Jerusalem, after President Barack Obama’s White House talks with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
The Israeli military said that from October 5 through 7, the days of the Muslim feast, 500 Palestinians from Gaza aged 60 and over would be permitted to pray at al-Aksa mosque in Jerusalem, and 500 could visit close relatives in the West Bank.
Palestinians living in the West Bank would be allowed unlimited travel to Israel for sightseeing and family visits over the holiday as well, the Israeli statement said.
Gaza would also be permitted to export agricultural produce to the West Bank, Israel said. Palestinian official Nazmi Mhana said it would be the first time since Hamas seized control there in 2007 that Gaza could sell its fish and vegetables in the West Bank.
Palestinians saw the Israeli steps as meeting its obligations under an August 26 ceasefire ending a 50-day Gaza war to ease a blockade of the coastal territory. The Israeli military said the moves were part of a policy intended to “improve the fabric of life for Palestinian society.”