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Gazans dream of praying at Al-Aqsa Mosque

Israel has prevented Gazans from traveling to Jerusalem since 2000, but their strong connection with the Holy City is inspiring new campaigns for change.
Ahmad Khalaf prays outside al-Aqsa mosque after he was released from an Israeli prison, in Jerusalem's old city December 31, 2013. Israel freed 26 Palestinian prisoners on Tuesday, days before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was due back in the Middle East to press the two sides to agree a framework peace deal.  REUTERS/Ammar Awad  (JERUSALEM - Tags: POLITICS RELIGION) - RTX16YA6
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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Um Aref Yusef last saw Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1999, never to be allowed to visit again as a result of the complicated travel restrictions imposed by Israel on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Yusef, 72, looked longingly at a picture of the gilded Dome of the Rock, hanging on a wall in her house in the Nasr neighborhood of Gaza City. “I can still smell the aroma of its old walls. I can never forget the thrill of praying in its midst. The time I spent in that place is a dream that I hope will repeat itself before death takes me away,” she told Al-Monitor.

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