Israeli defense officials have announced a series of goodwill gestures to the Palestinians ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Cogat, the Israeli defense body in charge of Palestinian civilian affairs, said late Tuesday that it will allow 800 residents of the blockaded Gaza Strip to attend Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Ramadan begins Thursday.

It is also allowing 200 Gaza residents to visit relatives in the West Bank, and permitting 300 families from abroad to enter Gaza to visit relatives.

The agency says it will coordinate special shuttle buses to allow West Bank residents to pray in Jerusalem.

With Mideast peace efforts on hold, Israel has taken a series of steps meant to improve the daily lives of Palestinians and to reduce tensions.