Thousands of Muslim worshippers performed Friday prayers at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem during the first Friday of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, which is deemed one of the five pillars of Islam.
At least 80,000 people from the Occupied Territories into Jerusalem went to Al Aqsa, one of the most important and holy sites for Muslims, for Friday prayers.
In addition, 500 Palestinians from Gaza Strip were allowed to pray at the site, an Israeli official said.
Men were allowed for only these who are aged 40 and above in the Israeli-occupied West Bank to enter Jerusalem, where they normally have to cross checkpoints and exit the territory.
Head of the Islamic Waqf which runs Al Aqsa, Sheikh Azzam told AFP that he estimated 200,000 worshippers were in and around the compound.
Israeli police and border guards took tighter security measures, roads around the Old City were cordoned and barricades were set up near the entrances to the mosque.
64-year-old Ahmed from Ramallah, preferring to give only his first name, said: “This is the holiest place for Muslims in Palestine, and we’re excited as always to make the journey.’’
“It took a while to get through the checkpoint at Qalandiya [between Ramallah and Jerusalem] but it was worth it,” he said.
Since the second Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s, this year was expected to mark the first time that Israeli authorities allowed the Palestinians from West Bank to take direct buses from Palestinians cities to the Al Aqsa esplanade.
Major General Yoav Mordechai, head of the defence ministry unit which manages civilian affairs in the West Bank, said that direct buses were not in place this Friday and claimed that it was ‘’due to the lack of preparation of the Palestinian Authority.’’
There was no immediate reaction from the Palestinian Authority.
Al Aqsa is Islam’s third holiest site. Palestinian men under age of 40 from the West Bank still needed permits to enter.
Despite displacement and disposition, Palestinians continue to resist what is internationally considered to be Israel’s institutional and systematic illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories.
A transnational solidarity movement to end the Israeli occupation has gained international momentum under the banner of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.
Support for the rights of the Palestinians has also slowly begun to shift to the policy-making sphere in several European countries.
The Palestinian people have been subject to what is widely considered to be an illegal military occupation for 48 years, gradually losing more and more land as a direct consequence of Israeli colonisation.
In October 2014, 135 of the 193 member states of the United Nations recognised the State of Palestine. While the United States and Israel have both been crucial actors in the peace process since its inception in 1992, they both have consistently voted against all motions at the UN in support of an independent Palestinian state.