Israel bars thousands of Palestinians from accessing Al-Aqsa Mosque for first Friday prayers of Ramadan

Israel bars thousands of Palestinians from accessing Al-Aqsa Mosque for first Friday prayers of Ramadan
Israel ramped up police and military presence in and around the Old City of Jerusalem, turning away would-be worshippers to Al-Aqsa for Friday prayers.
2 min read
15 March, 2024
The Al-Aqsa Mosque still received a significant turnout of worshippers despite the heavy Israeli restrictions [Getty/file photo]

Israel turned back thousands of Palestinians from reaching Al-Aqsa Mosque for the first Friday prayers of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

Israeli authorities in the occupied territory claimed the worshippers did not "have the required permits" to pray at the Jerusalem holy site amid continued restrictions on Muslim worship there amid pressure from the Israeli far-right.

Approximately 3,000 officers and border police soldiers were deployed on Friday, according to Israeli media. Israel has illegally occupied East Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsa is located, and the West Bank since 1967.

Israeli authorities also blocked major roads leading to Jerusalem, in a bid to restrict Palestinian access to Al-Aqsa, regarded as the third holiest site in Islam.

Israeli forces also strengthened their presence at military checkpoints surrounding the Old City, including Qalandiya and Zeitoun.

Several other checkpoints were also erected close to Jerusalem, further restricting access to Palestinians.

Additionally, medical teams were even prohibited from entering the mosque’s courtyard, including the Palestinian Red Crescent (PRCS), which wished to make it to Al-Aqsa in a bid to provide medical assistance to worshippers if needs be.

Despite the Israeli restrictions, approximately 80,000 Palestinians performed Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, according to the Islamic Endowments Department.

Since the war on Gaza began on 7 October, Israel has imposed near-complete restrictions on the holy sight, denying thousands of worshippers access to the mosque.

Israel's military onslaught in Gaza has killed over 31,000 Palestinians, including women and children, with atrocities carried out by the Israeli army in the enclave being described as akin to genocide.

Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has a history of making inflammatory comments about Palestinians, was reportedly present in the Old City to "monitor the situation".

Ben-Gvir, an ardent backer of Israel’s war in Gaza, has also repeatedly marched at Al-Aqsa in a bid to provoke Palestinians and has called for tough restrictions on Muslim worship at the holy site.

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On Thursday, Israel had installed iron barricades at three of the mosque’s gates, triggering condemnation from the Palestinian Authority and Jordan - which has custodianship over Jerusalem's holy sites - calling the move 'dangerous and unacceptable

Performing lunchtime (Dhuhr) Friday prayers in a mosque is of great significance in Islam. Typically, Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque draw tens of thousands of worshippers, particularly during Ramadan.

Israel has a history of carrying out violence against Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa.

It also regularly denies them entry to the mosque, even if individuals have relevant paperwork. Thousands are often forced to pray outside as a result.