SHAFAQNA -Â The Israeli government will not let civilian Muslim worshippers from Gaza enter Israel to pray at Jerusalemâ€™s al-Aqsa Mosque this week, in the midst of the Muslim holy month ofÂ Ramadan, after a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed in Israel Tuesday night, an officialÂ told Maâ€™an News Wednesday.
Originally, 500 people from Gaza, part of the Palestinian territories, had planned to cross the border Thursday and Friday into Israel so they could attend prayers at al-Aqsa, the third holiest site in Islam, in Jerusalem. The allowance would have been a relaxation of theÂ severe travel restrictions Israel typically imposes on Gazans and is supposed to serve as a gesture of goodwill during Ramadan as well asÂ certain Muslim holidays. But Israel canceled that decision following the rocket attack.
“The security conditions around the crossing arenâ€™t stable,” said Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of Israeli government activities in the Palestinian territories, because the rocket had landed close to the Erez crossing, one of five points of entry into Gaza and the northernmost crossing into Israel.
The rocket landed in Ashkelon, a coastal city in southern Israel that sits north of the Gaza Strip, around 10:30 p.m. local time Tuesday, the Israel militaryÂ confirmed, landing in an open space and causing no damage. It was not clear whether the rocket was fired by Hamas, the faction that controls Gaza, or by a rival group that has claimed ties to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Recently, the latter group hasÂ taken responsibility for previous rocket attacks and threatened to carry out more.
Whether Gazans would be allow to travel into Israel in subsequent weeks would depend on security conditions, which Israel was expected to reassess next week.
Mordechai blamed Hamas for the fact that Gazans would not be allowed to enter Israel for prayers this week. â€œI am not saying that Hamas fired the missile, but Hamas is responsible because it controls the Gaza Strip,â€ he said.
After the decision, Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, director of the Palestinian Ministry of Endowment, slammed Israelâ€™s strict limits on travel for Palestinians overall. â€œAll the people of Palestine have the right to access the city and pray in the Al-Aqsa Mosque in full freedom without the need for permits,” he said, Maâ€™an NewsÂ reported.
Israel has already blocked the travel plans of West Bank Palestinians, with 500 residents of that territory forbidden to travel through Israelâ€™s Ben Gurion International Airport to fly overseas, the newspaper HaaretzÂ reported.