Jerusalem (AFP) - Israel announced on Tuesday it was relaxing restrictions on the movement of Palestinians to and from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
A spokeswoman for COGAT, the defence ministry unit which manages civilian affairs in the West Bank, said that for the first time, Palestinians will be able to travel by bus directly from West Bank cities to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem.
Men aged over 40 and women of all ages from the West Bank will be able to pray at the Israeli-controlled holy site, and 800 people from the Gaza Strip will be allowed to attend Friday prayers.
In addition, 200 Gaza residents will be allowed to visit relatives in the West Bank during Ramadan, which is to begin on Wednesday or Thursday, and 500 people from the West Bank will be authorised to enter Gaza, COGAT said.
Israel would also allow 300 Palestinians living abroad to visit relatives in Gaza, and 500 West Bank Palestinians would be permitted to travel from Israel's Ben Gurion international airport.
The COGAT spokeswoman told AFP the measures were possible because of ongoing security cooperation between Israel and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority and the relative security lull, but that any breach would have consequences.
Israel tends to make such gestures ahead of and during Ramadan.
On Monday, the mayor of the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron said Israel approved the reopening of 70 shops in his city which had been closed since 2000, as well as two roads to the south.