100,000 Muslims pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque on Eid al-Adha

Despite anger over Jewish visits to the Temple Mount on Tisha B’Av, prayers take place peacefully; Bennett conveys his blessings to Israel’s Muslim and Druze populations

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Thousands of Palestinians attend prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque, in Jerusalem, marking the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, July 20, 2021. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)
Thousands of Palestinians attend prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque, in Jerusalem, marking the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, July 20, 2021. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

Tens of thousands of Muslims, including many from the West Bank, prayed at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Tuesday morning, marking the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

Palestinian media said some 100,000 worshipers prayed at the holy site Tuesday morning, after Israel eased travel restrictions on Palestinians during the festival.

Images showed tens of thousands of worshipers at the site. Some were seen raising the Palestinian flag and a banner of the Hamas terror group after prayers.

The Eid al-Adha holiday began on Monday and will end Friday, July 23.

Tuesday’s prayers on the Temple Mount passed peacefully, despite the anger over the entry of some 1,700 Jews on Sunday for Tisha B’Av, a day of mourning that marks the destruction of the First and Second Temples, as well as at recent footage of Jews praying in the flashpoint compound in apparent violation of a longstanding status quo.

Israel’s liaison to the Palestinians, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), said last week it would allow Palestinian families living in the West Bank to freely visit relatives in Israel, and that married men over 50 and women over 40 would be allowed to pray on the Temple Mount during the holiday.

Worshippers raise the Palestinian flag and a Hamas banner following Eid al-Adha prayers on the Temple Mount, July 20, 2021. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

Entry into Israel during the holiday is open to those who have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday “emphasized that freedom of worship on the Temple Mount will be fully preserved for Muslims, who will soon be marking the fast of the Day of Arafah and the Eid al-Adha,” after backtracking from earlier comments that Jews too have “freedom of worship” on the site.

The Temple Mount is the holiest place in Judaism, as the site of the two ancient Jewish Temples. It is also the site of the third-holiest shrine in Islam, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and has long been a flashpoint between Israelis and Palestinians.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday night to wish him a happy Eid al-Adha.

“The two spoke with a positive air and discussed the needed to advance confidence-building measures between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which will assist the security and economy of the entire region,” a statement from his office said.

President Isaac Herzog also spoke with Abbas and conveyed his blessings for the festival, Herzog’s office said.

On Tuesday morning, Bennett tweeted holiday greetings to Israel’s Muslim and Druze population who are celebrating Eid al-Adha.

On Sunday, dozens of Muslim worshipers barricaded themselves on the Mount and clashed with police ahead of the arrival of Jews marking Tisha B’Av. Some of them briefly chanted: “With spirit, with blood, we’ll redeem Al-Aqsa.”

Jordan, Turkey, and Egypt all reacted angrily on Sunday to news of clashes at the site and waves of Jewish visitors.

Since 1967, when Israel captured the site and the Old City, it has allowed the Jordanian Waqf to maintain religious authority atop the mount.

Times of Israel staff and Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.

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