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Israel stops 150 elder Gazans from praying in Al-Aqsa

Israeli authorities on Thursday cancelled the weekly visitation for 150 elderly Gazans typically permitted to worship in occupied East Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Muhammad Al-Maqadmeh, head of the media department of Gaza's Civil Affairs Committee, told Ma'an that Israeli authorities had informed them that the coordination of visitations for 150 Gazans to exit the besieged coastal enclave for Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa were cancelled.

Meanwhile, the 100 Palestinians whose visitations were coordinated with UNRWA would go ahead.

A spokesperson for COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, told Ma'an: "Many [Palestinians] have exploited these permits and have stayed illegally in Israel, and do not return to the Gaza Strip."

"In spite of the agreements with the Palestinian side, Gaza residents have continued to exploit the permits and so it was decided to reduce the amount of permits given for travel to Jerusalem on this Friday. We will not allow for this abuse of Israel's civil policy to continue."

Israeli authorities typically allow 250 Gazans above the age of 50 to visit occupied East Jerusalem to attend prayers every Friday at Al-Aqsa Mosque, 150 of whom receive coordinated visits through the Gaza civil affairs committee and the rest through UNRWA.

The number of Palestinians permitted to worship at Al-Aqsa was reduced by Israel earlier this year, as Israeli authorities had previously permitted 300 elderly Palestinians to travel to Al-Aqsa every Friday.

A spokesperson for COGAT told Ma'an at the time said the decision would continue to be reviewed "in accordance with the conduct of the Palestinians and their choice to respect the agreements with Israel."

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