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Access Relaxed to Al-Aqsa as Gaza Ceasefire Holds

The Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem’s Old City, referred to by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, reopened for Jewish visitors on Sunday, days after a ceasefire came into force between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

Violence between Palestinians and Israeli security forces at site, which is sacred for both Muslims and Jews, contributed to increasing tensions before the outbreak of the 11-day military conflict in and around Gaza, reports dpa news agency.

The unrest earlier in May was triggered by Palestinian anger over Israeli police blockades in the Old City during the fasting month of Ramadan.

The confrontations meant that for Ramadan, no Jewish visitors were allowed in to the Al-Aqsa until access was restored on Sunday.

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In another sign of confidence that the ceasefire between Israel and the militant Hamas in Gaza will continue to hold, government offices in Gaza were set to resume their work on Sunday, a spokesman for the local government said.

Local government activities had ceased when Israeli airstrikes began on May 10 in response to rockets fired at Jerusalem.

In Gaza, Islamist Hamas controls the administration.

The airstrikes targeted Hamas military infrastructure and also caused extensive destruction to residential and high-rise buildings, health facilities and other public buildings, bringing the daily life of the more than two million inhabitants of the impoverished coastal strip to a standstill.

A ceasefire has been in place since May 21, ending 11 days of Israeli air raids and Palestinian rocket fire that left more than 240 people dead in Gaza, including 66 minors, and claimed 12 lives in Israel.

Tensions in Jerusalem have remained high, however.

Israeli police arrested nine people on Saturday, according to a report.

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Five Palestinian men were taken into custody in their homes in East Jerusalem and the Old City, and four other Palestinians near the al-Aqsa Mosque, according to the Palestinian news agency Wafa, citing witnesses.

The report said security forces had already arrested dozens of Palestinians on May 21.