Large crowds for Ramadan prayers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa


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Large crowds for Ramadan prayers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa

Palestinians gather near the Dome of the Rock on the fourth Friday of the holy month of Ramadan on Al-Aqsa compound, also known to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, April 14, 2023.

REUTERS/Jamal Awad

The prayers end peacefully amid simmering tensions in a year-long escalation of Israeli-Palestinian violence

JERUSALEM – Muslim worshippers packed Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa compound for noon prayers on the fourth Friday, April 14, of the holy month of Ramadan under heightened Israeli police presence.

The prayers ended peacefully amid simmering tensions in a year-long escalation of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Israeli police raids at the sacred compound last week triggered rocket attacks from Gaza, southern Lebanon and Syria that drew Israeli air and artillery strikes.

Following the cross-border flare up, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed on Tuesday that, as in previous years, visits by non-Muslims to the site, known to Jews as Temple Mount, will be halted until the end of Ramadan, expected around April 20, depending on the moon.

Police said more than 2,000 officers operated in Jerusalem on Friday “to maintain security and order, and to ensure the freedom of worship for all denominations and religions”.

Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir tweeted a photo of him surrounded by Border Police officers as they conducted a security assessment near the compound in East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed following a 1967 Middle East war in a move not recognized internationally.

There were differing estimates of the number of worshippers, with the Israeli police putting the number at 130,000, while the Waqf, the Jordanian-appointed Islamic organization that manages the complex, placed the number at 250,000.

“There is no room for compromise on Al-Aqsa or space for negotiations around it and we will not give up one iota of its land,” the Mufti of Jerusalem Muhammad Hussein said at the Friday sermon, after expressing appreciation for the strong turnout of Muslim worshippers throughout the holy month.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians lined up at military checkpoints in the early morning hours to cross from the Israeli-occupied West Bank into Jerusalem.

Israel claims Jerusalem, including the walled Old City in the east with all its sacred sites, as its eternal and undivided capital. Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state in the West Bank and Gaza.

As Muslims flocked to Al-Aqsa, Orthodox Christians held Good Friday processions in the Old City’s narrow alleyways and Jewish worshippers prayed at the Western Wall.

Friday also marked the annual “Quds (Jerusalem) Day,” when Iran holds rallies in support of Palestinians.

Iran backs Palestinian and Lebanese Islamist armed groups fighting Israel, which Tehran does not recognize.

Hundreds of Palestinians marched in Gaza City after Friday prayers, waving flags of Iran and several Arab countries, including Saudia Arabia.

Israeli-Palestinian violence has surged in recent months, with frequent military West Bank raids and escalating settler violence amid a spate of Palestinian street attacks. More than 90 Palestinians and at least 19 Israelis and foreigners have been killed since January. –

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