Palestinians Head To Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa For First Friday Prayers Of Ramadan

Thousands Of Palestinians Gathered At Islam's Third Holiest Site For The First Friday Prayer Of The Islamic Month Of Ramadan.

11:02 AM WAT, Fri March 24, 2023

Tens of thousands of Muslims gathered at occupied East Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque on the first Friday of Ramadan for noon prayers, which passed peacefully despite concerns about a repeat of Israeli police raids that erupted during the Muslim holy month last year.

From early morning, residents of cities such as Bethlehem and Ramallah in the occupied West Bank lined up at Israeli checkpoints to visit Al Aqsa.

After two years of Covid restrictions, Israel has allowed some Palestinians from the West Bank who hold a travel permit to enter occupied East Jerusalem.

Tension is getting high in the city, dominated by Christians, Jews and Muslims.

Dozens of Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops in recent months during military raids on towns, villages and refugee camps in occupied East Jerusalem.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas cautioned against "continuing the repeated incursions into Al Aqsa Mosque and the provocative actions of extremist settler groups", the Palestinian WAFA news agency reported.

Days before the start of Ramadan, far-right Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir toured the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Jews as Temple Mount, in a move seen by Palestinians as a provocation.

Last year saw violence after Israeli police conducted nightly raids on Palestinians during the fasting month.

Threats of Palestinian displacement in occupied East Jerusalem and police raids at Al Aqsa Mosque ignited an 11-day Israel-Gaza war that killed more than 250 Palestinians in Gaza and 13 people in Israel.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, later illegally annexing it, in a move not recognised internationally. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.