JERUSALEM: Tens of thousands of worshippers attended Friday prayers at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque compound, the first in Ramadan, AFP correspondents said, amid heightened tensions in the region.
Authorities said the prayers at Islam’s third holiest site passed peacefully despite concerns over a recent surge in violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The mosque compound in the Israeli-annexed Old City of east Jerusalem has previously seen clashes and violence between Palestinians and Israelis, particularly during Ramadan.
Azzam Al Khatib, head of the Jordanian Waqf Islamic affairs council which administers the compound, told AFP “the prayers went peacefully and everything went well.”
Israeli officials estimated the number of worshippers at more than 80,000 while the Waqf said 100,000 had attended the afternoon prayer.
Israeli police said it had deployed 2,300 officers across the city for the day.
A massive crowd streamed through the Bab Al Silsilah entrance to the compound with prayer mats in hand, an AFP correspondent said.
Aboud Hassan, 62, had travelled early on Friday morning from the northern West Bank city of Nablus.
“Ramadan is the most important month of the year, and nothing matters to me except Al Aqsa,” he said.
“Nobody can stop us from praying at Al Aqsa, thank God. The prayers today went smoothly and without problems, thank God.”
An AFP photographer saw huge queues at Qalandiya checkpoint, one of the main crossing points from the occupied West Bank into Israel, after Israeli authorities had eased restrictions on West Bank Palestinians visiting Jerusalem for prayer.