Around 250,000 Muslims turned out to pray at East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque for the third Friday of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, For Muslims, East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque represents world’s third holiest site, according to Anadolu Agency.
According to the Islamic Awqaf (Endowment) Department in Jerusalem, 250,000 worshipers prayed at al-Aqsa. which for Muslims represents the world’s third holiest site. Thousands of worshipers from the West Bank have flocked to the Mosque at the crack of dawn amid tight security measures imposed by the Israeli army.
The Israeli Authorities, for their part, stepped up security in the area, deploying thousands of policemen and erecting roadblocks at the entrances of Jerusalem’s Old City.
The police also sealed off the main access roads to Jerusalem and banned buses from reaching the parks, resulting in a traffic jam. An Israeli surveillance balloon and a reconnaissance aircraft were seen hovering over the territory at the same time as dozens of Israeli cops were stationed across Jerusalem.
Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, director of the Islamic Endowment (Waqf) in Jerusalem said a total of some 250,000 worshipers prayed at Al-Aqsa for the third Friday of the holy month of Ramadan, and that the prayers went calmly with no issues.
Meanwhile, Palestinian men under the age of 45 from the West Bank were barred from entering Jerusalem for Friday prayers. Palestinian children under 12 and women of all ages were permitted to enter the Al-Aqsa compound.
Around 300 Palestinian residents of the blockaded Gaza Strip were also allowed — for the second time this Ramadan — to enter Jerusalem on Friday.
Following an attack in Tel Aviv earlier in the month, Israeli authorities froze the permits of 83,000 Palestinians to enter Israel, while banning visitations of elderly Gazans to the Al-Aqsa Mosque for a week after cancelling all coordination with the besieged Gaza Strip during the month of Ramadan.
In addition to the security measures imposed upon Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, approximately 60 Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem — including a senior Fatah official — have been placed on Israel’s “blacklist,” barring them from visiting Al-Aqsa, due to alleged “incitement” and stoking tensions on the compound.
They slammed Israel for their policy that “seeks to deprive the Waqf of their natural and historic right to run Al-Aqsa Mosque, and deprive Muslim worshipers their opportunity to pray in it.”
The statement criticized the fact that Palestinians are being banned from the holy site during Ramadan, “at a time when Muslims look forward to dedicating their time to fasting, worshiping, and other spiritual activities in Al-Aqsa Mosque — one of the most sacred sites in Islam.”
Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the Jewish state in a move never recognized by the international community.