BY DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES
ISTANBUL APR 06, 2022 –
Israel on Tuesday banned Palestinian males between the ages of 12 and 40 in the occupied West Bank from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque for Friday prayers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Palestinian women, children under 12 and men older than 50 can enter occupied East Jerusalem without permission if they would like to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque on Fridays, according to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).
Men between the ages of 40 and 49 are required to obtain special permission to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque, it added, according to remarks carried by Anadolu Agency (AA).
Palestinians with first-degree relatives in Israel will be given permits to visit Sunday and Thursday, COGAT said, adding that the further expansion of the permit will be discussed at a meeting next week that Defense Minister Benny Gantz will hold with security officials.
“Along with the civilian steps we are taking starting this week toward Ramadan, which we will expand if there is security stability, we will continue to do whatever it takes to give people a normal life and to protect Israeli citizens from terrorism,” said Gantz, adding that he told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a phone call on Tuesday night that the measures could be expanded further.
“I emphasized to (Abbas) that Israel is ready to expand its civilian measures during and after the month of Ramadan, in accordance with the security situation,” Gantz said in a statement.
Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are required to get special permission to visit holy sites, including Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem and to visit relatives inside Israel. To exit the occupied West Bank, Palestinians must use one of 23 checkpoints.
According to Israeli daily Haaretz, on the first night of Ramadan on Saturday the police arrested four Palestinians, blaming them for throwing objects at security officers during clashes in East Jerusalem’s Old City.
The official Palestinian news agency WAFA said Monday, some 13 Palestinians were detained and 20 others injured by Israeli soldiers who raided the Damascus Gate in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday night. A WAFA correspondent claimed that soldiers attacked Palestinian youths, forcing them to leave, following the late-night Tarawih prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Sunday night’s attacks began after Israeli soldiers reinforced their presence in the area and set up barriers on both sides of the Damascus Gate on the first day of Ramadan. Palestinians usually gather at the Damascus Gate after breaking the fast during the holy month of Ramadan.
It also came after Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s visit to the Damascus Gate on Sunday, where he made a speech, voicing his support for police reinforcements in the occupied area.
The Palestinian Authority condemned Lapid’s visit, describing it “as part of the expansionist Zionist system which aims to restrict the freedoms of the Palestinians.”
Israel’s government loses majority
Tensions within Israel’s wafer-thin ruling coalition are rising due to the recent resignation of an Israeli lawmaker over a dispute about Passover matza rules in hospitals on Wednesday, throwing the fragile alliance into disarray without a majority in parliament.
Backbencher Idit Silman’s departure raises the possibility of new parliamentary elections less than a year after the government took office. While Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government remains in power, it is now hamstrung in the 120-seat parliament and will likely struggle to function.
Silman, from Bennett’s religious-nationalist Yamina party, had opposed allowing people to bring leavened bread and other foodstuffs into public hospitals – products prohibited according to religious tradition during the Passover holiday, public broadcaster Kan reported. For some devout Jews, the mere presence of such foods in the hospital is not kosher.
Bennett’s coalition of eight political parties ranging from Palestinians to hard-line nationalists and dovish liberals – all united solely in their opposition to former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu – now holds 60 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.
Parliament is currently in recess, and it remains unclear if the opposition will now have enough support to hold a no-confidence vote and send Israelis to the polls for the fifth time in just over three years.
Silman, said she “cannot lend a hand to harming the Jewish character of the state of Israel and the people of Israel,” and would work to form a right-wing government, Kan reported.
Israel has held four elections in two years in a protracted political crisis over Netanyahu’s fitness to rule while on trial for corruption. The deadlocked elections were finally broken in June when Bennett and his allies ousted Netanyahu after 12 years in office by cobbling together a coalition of unlikely allies.
Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute think tank, said that while Silman’s departure didn’t bring down the government, it does bring the country “back to political crisis mode.”
“Bennett’s government loses its majority in parliament and its degree of freedom to maneuver, to pass legislation, to gain majority for its decisions,” Plesner said, according to The Associated Press (AP).
Netanyahu, now opposition leader, congratulated Silman and “welcomed her back home to the nationalist camp.”