JERUSALEM – Compared with Ramadan 2020, when the mosque was devoid of any worshipper, thousands of Palestinians today attended the prayers of the first Friday of Ramadan at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound.
Worshippers anxious to attend the first prayer of Ramadan in Jerusalem made their way to the mosque compound, crossing military barriers as Israeli police beefed up presence around and in the city.
Since the early morning hours, the Israeli occupation authorities sealed off the checkpoints separating Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and deployed police around and across the Old City, obstructing the movement of Palestinians and their vehicles and forcing them to walk for long distances to reach the holy site.
Inside the Old City of occupied Jerusalem, policemen set up iron barriers, inspected the identity cards of passer-by in the alleyways leading to the mosque compound, issued fines against others purportedly for not wearing face masks and briefly detained others purportedly for lacking entry permits.
Despite all the occupation measures, thousands were able to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque from its various gates as the Islamic Religious Endowment (Waqf) Authorities were keen to implemented safety measures to rein in the spread of the novel coronavirus.
This came as the so-called Israeli Civil Administration, the name Israel gives to the body administering its military occupation of the West Bank, announced that it would allow only 10,000 people from the West Bank to access the mosque, claiming that they were only those who received full vaccination against the pandemic.
None from the besieged Gaza Strip was granted a permit to pray at the mosque.
The past three days have seen night-time clashes between police and worshippers in the East Jerusalem, with tensions mounting over the police decision to ban people from sitting on the stairs outside Bab al-Amoud, also known as Damascus Gate, under the guise of implementing the coronavirus restrictions, and its decision to disconnect the power supply to the call to prayer at the mosque compound.
The Ramadan Friday prayers usually draw hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Muslims to the mosque compound in the past, while the coronavirus pandemic brought the prayers to halt in 2020.
For many Palestinians in Jerusalem and across the occupied Palestinian territory, Ramadan is directly connected to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound houses both the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque and is considered the third holiest site in Islam.
Al-Aqsa is located in East Jerusalem, a part of the internationally recognized Palestinian territories that have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.