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Israel bracing for influx of Palestinians during Ramadan


08:44, July 11, 2013

JERUSALEM, July 10 (Xinhua) -- Israel's security forces are prepared for the massive arrival of Palestinians in the country for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan that began Wednesday.

An all-time high of more than one million Palestinians from the West Bank are expected to enter Israel to partake in the Friday prayer at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and to visit relatives across the country, according to an assessment by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), cited by the Ynet news site on Wednesday.

Jerusalem District Police will deploy thousands of officers in and around the Old City to secure worshipping in the Temple Mount, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Xinhua. He said the police expects tens of thousands of worshippers on the first Friday of Ramadan, and up to 180,000 on the last Friday.

Apart from the Temple Mount, one of the most heavily guarded sites in the world on any given day, the Israeli police are gearing to secure the arrival of tens of thousands of Palestinians in malls, beaches and other crowded public venues throughout the country, with special preparations having been made to prevent possible violence involving Arab and Jewish youths during the summer recess, Ynet said.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), for its part, is beefing up checkpoints in the West Bank with additional troops to handle the massive flow of both religiously observant and secular Muslims, and cooperation with Palestinian police has been enhanced to prevent security incidents.

A joint IDF-COGAT statement released Monday said that travel restrictions and other constraints on West Bank Palestinians will be eased during this year's Ramadan. All Palestinians above the age of 60 will be given unlimited access to Israel, while women of all ages and men over 40 will be given unfettered access to the Temple Mount for the holiday of Eid el-Fitr that follows Ramadan.

In a bid to alleviate tensions, Israeli troops manning checkpoints in the West Bank have been instructed to exhibit "high sensitivity and flexibility" and have been given an info-sheet with a brief history of the holiday and its significance in Islam.

Special instructions to troops include refraining "as much as possible" from eating, drinking and smoking in the presence of worshippers, all of which are forbidden during Ramadan, the joint statement said.

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