Friday prayers at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem passed quietly for the second consecutive week, as Israel allowed hundreds of Palestinians from Gaza to worship at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Ramadan, a week after revoking entry permits in response to a deadly attack in Tel Aviv.
The 300 Palestinians are believed to be the first from the blockaded enclave to be granted entry to pray since Israel shut the border after Palestinian terrorists killed four Israelis at the Sarona Market on June 8.
That measure came during the first week of the Muslim holy month, when tens of thousands of Palestinians visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem.
The permits issued for Friday were the regular weekly quota for worshipers at Al-Aqsa, and not the originally planned increased numbers for Ramadan, said a spokeswoman for COGAT, the Defense Ministry unit which manages civilian affairs for Palestinians in the West Bank and liaises with Gaza.
“Larger numbers were supposed to enter for Ramadan. That has been cancelled,” she said.
Around 53,000 Palestinians from the West Bank were also allowed into Jerusalem on Friday to pray at Al-Aqsa, the spokeswoman said.
Thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank had already been allowed to go there last week in an exception to the entry ban, she noted.
The compound, a frequent focal point of Palestinian-Israeli tensions, is revered by Jews as their holiest site, and as the third holiest place in Islam. Under the terms of a fragile status quo agreement in place there since Israel captured the compound from Jordan in the 1967 war, non-Muslims may visit the site — believed by Jews to be the location of the two biblical temples — but cannot pray.
Israel Police’s Jerusalem District commander Yoram Halevi on Friday commended police and Border Police officers after the prayers passed without incident.
“The police and Border Police fighters work for many hours, with great professionalism, determination and motivation but succeed in remaining sensitive to all segments of the public in the capital and to people from all faiths and denominations, all in an effort to allow freedom of religious ritual while keeping the public safe and at peace,” he said.
The police will remain on high alert throughout the month-long Ramadan holiday.