"Israel is prepared to expand civilian measures during and after the month of Ramadan, in accordance with the security situation," Defence Minister Benny Gantz tells Palestine's President Mahmud Abbas over phone.

Palestinian men over age 50 and under age 12 will be allowed to enter for prayers. Men between the ages of 40 and 49 with a permit also will be allowed in.
Palestinian men over age 50 and under age 12 will be allowed to enter for prayers. Men between the ages of 40 and 49 with a permit also will be allowed in. (AFP Archive)

Israel will allow women, children and men over 40 from the occupied West Bank to pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque on Friday in an apparent bid to help calm tensions during the holy month of Ramadan.

Israel said in a statement on Tuesday that it could further relax restrictions if things stay quiet. The use of incentives around the flashpoint shrine, built on a hilltop compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount, comes a year after flare-ups led to Israel's Gaza invasion in May.

This year, the government has been on high alert after three attacks by Palestinians in Israel in recent weeks killed 11 Israelis.

The attacks raised questions about whether the new rules would be cancelled, but Israel's new coalition government has sought to avoid a repeat of last year's violence with a series of incentives.

Defence Minister Benny Gantz said he would consider further easing restrictions next week if things remain calm.

"Along with the civilian steps we are taking starting this week toward Ramadan, which we will expand if there is security stability, we will continue to do whatever it takes to give people a normal life and to protect Israeli citizens from terrorism," said Gantz.

Under the new rules by the ministry's liaison to the Palestinians, Palestinian women from the occupied West Bank will be allowed to enter Israel without a permit for Friday prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Palestinian men over age 50 and under age 12 will be allowed to enter for prayers. Men between the ages of 40 and 49 with a permit also will be allowed in. Thousands of Palestinians with close relatives in Israel will also be given permits to visit them between Sunday and Thursday, according to the liaison.

The rules will apply for the next week and security officials will meet again to consider expanding them further.

READ MORE: Israel arrests several Palestinians on third night of Jerusalem clashes

Gantz-Abbas talks 

Meanwhile, Gantz spoke with Palestine's President Mahmud Abbas over the phone on the occasion of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Gantz's office said.

"Minister Gantz wished (Palestinian Authority) Chairman Abbas and the Palestinian people a blessed month of Ramadan," the statement said.

"Israel is prepared to expand civilian measures during and after the month of Ramadan, in accordance with the security situation," Gantz added.  The statement did not elaborate on the measures that would affect Palestinians. 

He also expressed "appreciation" for Abbas's comments on an attack in the town of Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv late last month.

The Palestinian president had issued a rare condemnation of the March 29 attack in which five people were killed after a Palestinian opened fire at passers-by, saying that the killings "will only lead to further deterioration of the situation, while we are all striving for stability".

READ MORE: Deaths in mass shooting spree in central Israel

Condemning settlement comments

Palestine condemned comments on Tuesday about settlements by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry described Bennett's statements as "anti-peace" and blamed Israel for escalating tension in Palestinian territories.

The condemnation follows remarks by Bennett who said his government would continue settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.

“We will continue to build in Judea and Samaria and there will be no freeze of constructing the settlement,” Bennett said as cited by Israeli Army Radio. “Things will happen in order.”

Bennett also said Israeli security services thwarted more than 15 major attacks in the West Bank and Israel.

He added. "207 suspects have been arrested in recent days.”

A total of 11 people have been killed in attacks in Israel since March 22 and over the same period, eight Palestinians have been killed, according to an AFP news agency tally — including two assailants in anti-Israeli attacks and six people the Israelis said had carried out attacks or were about to do so.

Last year, clashes between police and protesters in and around the Old City helped spark the Gaza war.

READ MORE: Israeli forces kill three Palestinians in occupied West Bank

Source: TRTWorld and agencies