People's joy at reopened mosques in Gaza "a blessing" says imam

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People's joy at reopened mosques in Gaza "a blessing" says imam

Mosques reopen as Palestinians ease COVID-19 restrictions, in Gaza City

GAZA (Reuters) - Mosques reopened for daily prayers and children returned to nursery schools on Wednesday in an easing of coronavirus restrictions in the Gaza Strip.

The Hamas Islamist-run enclave, whose borders are tightly controlled by Israel and Egypt, has recorded 61 confirmed infection cases, all in quarantine facilities, and one death during the health crisis. Two million Palestinians live in Gaza.

In the past week, Muslim religious authorities in the territory have allowed Friday prayers in mosques, after a two-month closure.

They will now be open to worshippers every day. Abdel-Hadi Al-Agha, director of the Hamas-led Waqf and Religious Affairs ministry, said he instructed mosque leaders to keep sermons and prayers brief as a health precaution.

Ahmed Al-Safadi, a Gaza City imam, said dozens of people attended dawn prayers at his mosque.

"People's pleasure at returning to God's house is a great blessing," he said.

Precautionary measures were in place, he added, with worshippers having to wear face masks, bring their own prayer mats and maintain social distancing.

Gaza authorities also ordered the reopening of pre-schools, for children between the ages of two and five.

"A big percentage of families are employees and since they have resumed their jobs in offices, they have brought their children back to our nursery school," said Hind Assousi, principal of the Beautiful Smile kindergarten in Gaza City.

The education system in Gaza and the West Bank was shut down in March to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The school year for elementary and secondary school in Gaza and the West Bank has officially ended, with the exception of final exams that began on Saturday for high school students.


(Writing by Nidal Almughrabi; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Alexandra Hudson)