Hamas flag at Al Aqsa (file photo)
Hamas flag at Al Aqsa (file photo) Temple organizations HQ

Hundreds of elderly Gazans paid a rare visit to Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque on Sunday after the IDF eased restrictions on movement for the Eid Al Adha festival.

It was the first time since 2007 that Muslim worshippers from Gaza were granted permission to travel to the ancient shrine in Jerusalem’s Old City, a leftist group said.

The move to ease access over the feast of sacrifice was announced by Israel just over a month after a ceasefire ended a 50-day war in Gaza which killed 73 Israelis and almost 2,200 Palestinian Arabs.

Under the terms of the deal, Israel agreed to ease restrictions limiting Palestinians’ freedom of movement.

The IDF said in a statement that it had given permits to 500 Gaza residents over the age of 60 to visit the plaza to celebrate the three-day holiday which began on Saturday.

The 500-strong group arrived at the Al Aqsa mosque plaza during the morning and were allowed to stay there until 3 p.m., after which they were taken back to the Gaza border.

Gulf News reported that many in the group hadn’t visited the shrine — the third holiest site in Islam — in decades, kissing the ground as they entered the sprawling plaza.

“I haven’t been here for 35 years. Everything has changed,” smiled Umm Dallaleh Fayyad, a woman in a black abaya and a vibrant blue headscarf. “It’s like being in paradise.”

The move was hailed by Gisha, a New Israel Fund-linked NGO which fights for “freedom of access and movement” for Palestinians, which had repeatedly petitioned the courts over the matter, without success.

“This hasn’t happened since 2007. Christians could leave [for religious holidays] but not Muslims,” said Gisha spokeswoman Shai Grunberg.

Gazans’ freedom of movement has been restricted since 2007 when the Islamist movement Hamas seized control of the territory, prompting Israel to significantly tighten a blockade imposed a year earlier after terrorists there kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

The move to allow the visit comes as part of a general increase in the number of Gaza residents allowed to travel into Judea and Samaria, and is reportedly a gesture in the ongoing ceasefire talks between Israel and the terrorist organization Hamas, which are to resume in Cairo in the last week of October. The talks come amid reports that Hamas has renewed its terrorist preparations to attack Israel.