JERUSALEM (AFP) – (AFP) – Nearly 100,000 worshippers attended the first Friday prayers of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, where Israeli army and police were deployed in force, a police spokesman said.
“More than 95,000 faithful Muslims came to pray today, the first Friday of Ramadan, at the mosque compound,” Micky Rosenfeld told AFP after the prayers finished.
“There were no incidents. Thousands of police were deployed in the Old City to deal with any eventuality,” he added.
Israel generally prohibits Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip access to east Jerusalem, annexed after its conquest in 1967, as well as Israeli territory as a result of the closure in effect since early 2000.
Access to the complex was also denied for West Bank Palestinians under the age of 35, the spokesman said, adding the measures were imposed as a precaution due to the risk of violence.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk and strive to be more pious and charitable.
The sprawling esplanade containing the Al-Aqsa mosque and the adjacent Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem’s historic Old City is the third holiest site in Islam after Saudi Arabia’s Mecca and Medina.
It is the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because it was the location of the Second Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.