Muslims Throng Jerusalem for Ramadan Prayers

Crowds thronged Jerusalem as tens of thousands of Muslim faithful headed for the first Friday prayers of Ramadan at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City.

Israeli authorities eased access restrictions for Palestinians from the West Bank, allowing men aged 50 and over and women of 45 and over to enter the site.

Israel generally prohibits Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to enter its own designated territory or east Jerusalem, which it occupied in the 1967 Six-Day-War and later annexed.

At the Qanladia checkpoint into Jerusalem, long lines of people could be seen streaming into the city from early morning onwards.

The Israeli army has extended opening times at some checkpoints for the month of Ramadan, and said in a statement soldiers manning the barriers have been told to "refrain from eating and drinking in public" whenever possible "so as to demonstrate a high level of respect and understanding."

Security forces beefed up their presence, particularly in the vicinity of the al-Aqsa mosque compound.

The compound is known as al-Haram al-Sharif to Muslims and is Islam’s third holiest site after Mecca and Medina. Jews refer to the same area as the Temple Mount, the location of the Second Jewish Temple razed by the Romans in 70 AD and Judaism’s holiest site.

(Al-Arabiya English)

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