Thousands gather at Al-Aqsa for first Friday prayers of Ramadan

Thousands gather at Al-Aqsa for first Friday prayers of Ramadan
Despite heightened tensions following a surge of violence in Israel and the West Bank, worshippers congregated in their thousands for Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque.
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Palestinian worshippers pass through the Qalandiya checkpoint from Ramallah into Jerusalem to attend the first Friday prayer of the month of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa Mosque [Getty]

Tens of thousands of Muslims flocked to Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem on the first Friday of Ramadan for noon prayers, which passed peacefully despite concerns about a repeat of Israeli violence 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, which serves as the third holiest site in Islam.

After two years of Covid-19 restrictions, some Palestinians who hold a travel permit have been able to enter Jerusalem from the West Bank.

But tensions are again high in the holy city.

"Al-Aqsa is the most valuable thing we have, we do everything in our power to visit it and the rest is up to God," said Hussein Abayat from Bethlehem.

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

Last year saw nightly clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police during the holy month.

Several families, including the El-Kurds, were threatened with eviction from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, occupied East Jerusalem.

Police raids at Al-Aqsa Mosque ignited an 11-day Israeli bombing of the besieged Gaza trip that killed more than 250 Palestinians, including dozens of children.

Israel invaded and annexed East Jerusalem in a 1967 war, in a move not recognised internationally, and has occupied ever since. 

Palestinians in the West Bank often face intimidation and violence from settlers.